Christchurch in particular is proud that local woman, Kate Sheppard, was the leader and figurehead of the suffrage movement that resulted in a petition that ensured all New Zealand woman were able to vote from 1893.
New Zealand is the first country in the world to give women the vote: married, single, migrant, indigenous, poor, rich, with or without land, working or not – all women were able to vote with the passing of the 1893 Electoral Bill.
Notice we kiwi did not use the word ‘suffragettes’ as we’d the vote some twenty years before that term was coined!
Born to Scottish parents, Kate came to New Zealand in 1868 with her widowed mother, and New Zealand honours her by having her image on our ten-dollar note.
Every Suffrage Day, 19th September, a few women gather at the Christchurch memorial panel to pay tribute to all those wonderful women by placing white camellias and purple balloons on this inner city sculpture. Note this is at the corner of Worcester Boulevard & Cambridge Terrace – although with post-quake (2010/11) plans it may be moved.
A punk rock musical about her struggles with the Prime Minister (Seddon) has recently been performed at the Christchurch Festival .. called That Bloody Woman, it had good reviews so I look forward to seeing it soon – apparently some were initially ‘shocked at the opening scenes’ when her sexual behaviour was exposed but ‘this quickly abated as the story developed’ I was told.
The memorial was unveiled in 1993, the 100th anniversary of this historic event. It has six women on it with Kate Sheppard holding the petition in a wheelbarrow which is how the petition was delivered to the steps of Parliament in Wellington. The side panels show women in typical everyday (1893) settings – gathering shellfish, teaching, factory sewing, farming, caring for families and nursing. These are flanked by bronze panels telling the New Zealand suffrage story.
Here are more pictures about one of our favourite kiwi women.
Three cheers to ‘that bloody woman’ I say!