Podcast – Suffrage 125

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from New Zealand’s only specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

It is 125 years since New Zealand became the first country to allow women to vote in parliamentary elections. In this show, guests Vanisa Dhiru (National President of the National Council of Women of New Zealand), Katie Pickles (Historian of Women’s and Feminist History at the University of Canterbury) and Kym Hamilton (Tokona Te Raki) ponder the history of suffrage in Aotearoa New Zealand, as well as the current state of women’s rights in the country. This show is proudly supported by the Ministry for Women’s Suffrage 125 Community Fund.

  • Part I: Brief overview of the Suffrage movement in Aotearoa New Zealand; who exactly was entitled to vote following the 1893 Electoral Act
  • Part II: Women’s rights and challenges in NZ 125 years since Suffrage
  • Part III: The need for a gender-equal NZ; the need to look at gender beyond stereotypes and beyond the binary
  • Part IV: Hopes for the future

Transcript – Suffrage 125

Find out more in our collection

 Cover of Women's suffrage in New Zealand Cover of Women now: The legacy of female suffrage Cover of Unsung heroines Cover of Leading the way Cover of Be counted! Cover of Polly Plum Cover of The suffragists Cover of Women's suffrage in New Zealand Cover of Canterbury women since 1893 Cover of Class, Gender and the Vote Historical Perspectives From New Zealand Cover of Rethinking Women and Politics

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Celebrate Suffrage Day / White Camellia Day – Monday 19 September 2016

Monday 19 September 2016 is Suffrage Day / White Camellia Day – On 19 September 1893 women in New Zealand got the vote, and the white camellia was the symbol of the suffragists.

Here in Christchurch,  there’s a celebration honouring the achievements of women from 12 to 12.30pm by the Kate Sheppard Memorial on the corner of Worcester Street and Oxford Terrace. Mayor Lianne Dalziel will speak, and the Kate Sheppard Memorial Award 2016 will be presented. The finalists in the Lois Middlemiss Award will read their poems, including Beth Walters, Aranui High – “East Side Youth: Our Voice”. (info from The Christchurch Mail)

Kate Sheppard memorial. Flickr 2014-09-19-IMG_2212
Kate Sheppard memorial. Flickr 2014-09-19-IMG_2212

More about suffrage

Suffrage Day and Women’s Rights

Today is Suffrage Day. It’s the day we set aside to commemorate and celebrate the efforts of women (and men) who, 122 years ago campaigned long and hard so that women could have the right to have a say in how New Zealand is governed.

You could argue that the suffrage movement was just part of the broader role that feminism, and the fight for female emancipation, has played in securing modern Kiwi women the rights they enjoy like –

  • being able to own property (1860)
  • allowed entrance to university (1871)
  • voting (1893)
  • running for parliament (1919)
  • the right to body autonomy (before 1985 a husband could force his wife to have sex with him. Legally, this was not rape.)

Things have changed a lot since 1893, or even since 1902 when this infamous poster was created by a not very forward-thinking Mr Henry Wright.

Notice to epicene women [poster]
Wright, Henry Charles Clarke, 1844-1936. Wright, Henry Charles Clarke, 1844-1936 :Notice to epicene women. Electioneering women are requested not to call here. 12706 – Alex Ferguson, Printer, Wellington. [1902]. Ref: Eph-B-WOMEN-1902. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22872683
“Epicene” is not a word that gets used a lot in everyday conversation, but it means “of indeterminate sex”. The implication being that women who showed an active interest in politics were not really women at all. Lovely.

Posters like the above help to illustrate how very committed and brave those suffragette campaigners were. To keep on fighting for what they knew was right when many in the community considered them offensive or even freakish shows great fortitude and strength of character.

I’m personally incredibly grateful. We honour them by remembering their struggle not just for themselves but for all women.

Learn more about the suffragettes and votes for women –

Feminism is not a four letter word

cover of Harpies & HeroinesI sometimes feel like a leaky tap. Drip, drip, dripping onto a huge stone, and the noise probably drives everyone around me crazy.

My life long  reason for harping on? The position of women and their rights in the world. More recently, I have noticed how most younger women take what they can do for granted and don’t realise how recently some of their ‘rights’ have been ‘given’ to them. New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women the vote in 1893. This event is celebrated on 19 September each year and it is a good time to take stock of where women are in our society.

Many young women I’ve talked with think every woman has always been able to go to university, work full time, be a doctor, run a company, or own property.

Do they worry, I ask them, that female Rock and Pop artists still have to shake their bootie and let it all hang out to be a star? Their answer is that it is their choice, their way of showing strength and self empowerment. So why do the male artists not have to strip to be famous?

Cover of The Stalking of Julia GillardRecent news tells me we certainly haven’t ‘come a long way baby’. An English woman was bombarded with rape threats and other offensive abuse for campaigning to have a woman celebrated on a British banknote.

Whether you like a woman’s politics or not, female politicians are still vilified for so many reasons other than their political beliefs. Questions are asked such as why do they not have children, or if they have children, why aren’t they at home raising them? Female politicians can  vilified for being too fat or thin, or a bad dresser.

I have yet to hear a male politician criticised about his ties, or whether his haircut befits a leader of the nation.

cartoonWomen are still being criticised for breastfeeding in public, but you don’t have to go far to find pictures publicly displayed of women showing more than a woman feeding her baby would.

As Suffrage day is upon us again, I feel proud of the women who came before me and made my life better and proud of the things I have done in my life to increase awareness and make change, but I also feel frustrated by how much there is still to do and the stubbornness of our society to give half our population a fair and equitable deal in all things.

There are so many examples of New Zealand women fighting the good fight and living amazing lives. Here are some Christchurch connected stars who led the way:

  • Elizabeth McCombs was the first woman to be elected as an MP, in 1933, when she won the Lyttelton seat.
  • Elsie Locke was a prominent author and political activist, feminist and peace advocate
  • Ettie Rout is most famous as a safe sex campaigner in World War 1, setting up a safe sex brothel and designing a safe sex kit which was officially adopted by the NZEF and handed out compulsorily to all soldiers going on leave.
  • Kate Sheppard  became the leader of the fight to win the right for women to vote in elections. She organised petitions to Parliament asking for the right to vote for women and persuaded Sir John Hall, a leading member of Parliament, to support them.

To call yourself a feminist still seems to mean you are seen as uptight, man hating and with no sense of humour, when in fact being a feminist just means you believe in every person in every society being given equal rights, and the ability to live the life they wish to, unfettered by prejudice or laws that hinder this.

Do you care about women’s rights, or do you think women have equal rights, and there is no more work to be done?

Suffrage Day / White Camellia Day on Wednesday

Kate Sheppard MemorialWednesday 19 September 2012 is Suffrage / White Camellia Day.

You can see the names of those who signed the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition.

Join Women on Air for their celebration of Suffrage Day – and 20 years of broadcasting! -Wednesday at 7.30pm Middleton Grange. It will feature actress Helen Moran as Kate Sheppard and Port Hills MP Ruth Dyson will read the maiden speech of Elizabeth McCombs, New Zealand’s first female MP. Michele A’Court will read a piece called “A letter to my daughter”.

Explore more about New Zealand suffrage and the awesome women of Aotearoa. Digital NZ has a neat set of images Cartooning the women’s vote. Why not watch NZ on screen
The Nineties
Bread & Roses

Search our catalogue for women’s suffrage and women’s rights in New Zealand.

Public notice for a meeting on the present and outlook of woman’s suffrage to be held at the Oddfellows Hall, Lichfield Street, Christchurch [20 Oct. 1892]

Suffrage Day / White Camellia Day Friday 19 September

Elizabeth McCombs
Elizabeth McCombs

You might be fed up with Labour and National and the Winston sideshow as the election on November 8 looms, but before 1893 women didn’t get a vote – and the first woman MP Elizabeth McCombs didn’t get into Parliament until 40 years later!

So on Suffrage Day we celebrate the women who fought for their rights and for ours. We’ve just added some brief political biographies of local women in council to the web site – from Christchurch’s “Women in the Council Chamber” exhibition, initiated and co-ordinated by Cr Anna Crighton.

Other ways to celebrate:

Kate Sheppard Memorial
Kate Sheppard Monument

Friday 19th September 12.30 p.m. – All women are invited to bring camellias to Our City O-Tautahi, to place on the Kate Sheppard Memorial. Bring a poem or a personal statement.

You might also like to join Women on Air for their celebration of Suffrage Day at 7:30pm Christchurch Girls’ High School Auditorium – it features authors Megan Hutching, Janice Marriott, Virginia Pawsey and poet Bernadette Hall.