Women's Suffrage in New Zealand

Women's Suffrage in New Zealand

Women's Suffrage in New Zealand

Women's Suffrage in New Zealand

Synopsis

First published in 1972, Patricia Grimshaw's account of the New Zealand suffrage movement remains the definitive study of New Zealand's radical role as the first country in the world to give women the vote. In clear, lively prose, this revised edition tells the fascinating story of the courage and determination early New Zealand feminists demonstrated, focusing particularly on the remarkable leadership of Kate Sheppard, whose ideas remain relevant today.

Excerpt

New Zealand women were given the right to vote in Parliamentary elections in 1893. Women had voted in Wyoming since 1869 and in Utah since 1870, women property-holders in the Isle of Man since 1880; Colorado gave women the vote, with New Zealand, in 1893, and South Australia followed the next year. New Zealand was thus the first national state in the world to allow women to vote, yet New Zealand historians have taken little interest in the event. There appear to be three trends of thought on the subject. Some historians have claimed that there was no agitation for the vote, that it was passed by chance or by the idealism of the early Liberal party. Others have been influenced by William Pember Reeves who attributed the suffrage to the work of the temperance movement in their hopes for aid from the women's vote. A third group, those connected with women's organizations, have relied on an account of the suffrage movement published in 1905 by W. Sidney Smith, who, in contrast to Reeves, revealed the extent to which women themselves had for the suffrage, but who attempted little analysis of the mainspring of the women's activities.

This book is designed to show that the concession of the vote in New Zealand was the outcome of a feminist movement comparable to movements elsewhere in the world. To support this it is demonstrated that the grant of the suffrage was not an isolated event, but one contemporaneous with many other parallel changes in the position of women in New Zealand, and that the issue itself was forced into prominence by an organization, the Women's Christian Temperance Union, whose motives in campaigning for the vote were basically feminist. This involves a consideration of the relation between feminism and temperance in nineteenth-century New Zealand, in order to suggest how it was possible for women temperance advocates to be also genuine feminists.

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