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.
“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 –

Trailblazers – New Zealand Women and the Vote

Copy of NZ Women Suffragettes Petition to Parliament
Copy of NZ Women Suffragettes Petition to Parliament

New Zealand suffrage campaigners led by Kate Sheppard have been described as “Trailblazers”  in their fight for New Zealand women to achieve the right to vote.

After a 7-year-long campaign this right was finally achieved when, on the 19th September 1893, a new Electoral Act was enacted allowing New Zealand women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This was no mean feat as in most other democratic countries women did not gain this right until after the end of the First World War.

Let us celebrate this extraordinary achievement by exercising our right to vote in the forthcoming election. There is no better way of honouring the sacrifices and struggles of our sisters all those years ago than by ensuring that we are all enrolled to vote and exercise that right in this year’s election This, my sisters, is my challenge to you.

Check out the display at Shirley Library which celebrates the way in which women’s suffrage was achieved, as well as capturing some of the hostility and opposition that the movement encountered.

Cover of Leading the Way Cover of Women's Suffrage in New Zealand  Cover of The Suffragists  Cover of The Ascent of Woman  Cover of Unsung Heroines

Get your votes in by midday Saturday 12 October 2013

LocalElections2013LibrariesWebTileSmallPostal voting doesn’t close for the 2013 Christchurch local body elections until election day, but any votes posted from today (Thursday) are unlikely to reach the Electoral Officer in time to be counted by the noon Saturday deadline. If you haven’t posted your vote yet, don’t worry – Christchurch City Council service centres and libraries will accept voting documents until midday Saturday 12 October.

You  can enrol to vote in the 2013 elections up until Friday 11 October but  will have to cast a special vote and must contact the Christchurch elections hotline on 0508 440 017. If you did not enrol before 16 August or have not updated your details, you must also cast a special vote.

Special voting facilities are available at the following places:

  • Civic Offices, Ground Floor, 53 Hereford Street. Monday–Friday, 8.30am–5pm, Saturday 8.30am–noon
  • Shirley Service Centre, 36 Marshland Road. Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm, Saturday 10am–noon
  • Akaroa Service Centre, 28 Rue Jolie,  Akaroa Recreation Ground. Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm, Saturday 9am–noon.

More information: