Taranaki Cathedral will be marking the 125th Anniversary of Women's Suffrage in New Zealand with a commemorative service at 12 noon on Wednesday 19th September at the Interim Cathedral. The 45-minute service will be a celebration of the event of Women's Suffrage in New Zealand and an opportunity to hear the struggles of women for and in public office and also be a challenge to women for future civic engagement and participation.
Speakers will include Charmaine Sarten, president of the Aotea division of the Maori Women's Welfare League, and Mary Bourke, former mayor of South Taranaki District. The service will be led by Revd. Canon Sue Pickering.
On 19 September 1893 the governor, Lord Glasgow, signed a new Electoral Act into law. 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.
In most other democracies – including Britain and the United States – women did not win the right to the vote until after the First World War. New Zealand’s world leadership in women’s suffrage became a central part of our image as a trail-blazing ‘social laboratory’.
That achievement was the result of years of effort by suffrage campaigners, led by Kate Sheppard. In August 1893, 13 petitions comprising the signatures of 31,872 women (about 1/4 of the female European population of voting age) were presented to parliament.
Today, the idea that women could not or should not vote is completely foreign to New Zealanders. Following the 2017 election, 38% of our Members of Parliament were female, compared with 9% in 1981. In the early 21st century women have held each of the country’s key constitutional positions: prime minister, governor-general, speaker of the House of Representatives, attorney-general and chief justice.
Proud to be a part of the Suffrage 125 national event programme.