The Electoral Act 1893 was passed on 19 September 1893, giving all women in New Zealand the right to vote. As a result of this landmark legislation, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This year marks the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand.
None of this would have been possible without the perseverance and determination of Kate Shepherd. A migrant herself, Kate Shepherd travelled throughout New Zealand gathering signatures and demanding a change in law so that women had the right to vote in Aotearoa. During the compilation period, Kate Sheppard kept the petition on a broomstick, and this was used to transport it to Wellington. Once completed, it consisted of 546 pages glued together, nearly 32,000 signatures, and stretched out to over 274 metres.
Equality is an important dimension in the success of our society and fosters a sense of belonging and inclusion in our communities. The Suffrage Petition is a document of equality that is recognised and celebrated . It gave women in that era an outlet to use their voice, influence change on a national level, and inspired generations of women to stand up and fight for their rights and the rights of womanhood on a national and international scale.
Over the coming months, we will celebrate Suffrage 125 by featuring members of our community who help create social change for women and New Zealand. If you would like to get involved in some of the Suffrage 125 celebrations, please visit the Ministry for Women's website for up and coming events.