Women's Suffrage in New Zealand

By Patricia Grimshaw | Go to book overview

Introduction

AN American woman historian, analysing the role women have been accorded in the world's historiography, has described their function as 'parallel to that of comic interludes in Shakespeare's tragedies'. 1 Male historians have described the reigns of kings, the battles of soldiers, and the administrations of presidents. Women have been relegated to a passing mention in narrative-breaking chapters on social life, dress styles, family structures and similar diversions. But the position of women during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries underwent a gradual but none-the-less startling change which, while it was classified as proper history in those male historians' categories, has not been subjected to extensive analysis until recent years. The stimulus behind this change in women's social position, its essential nature, and its significance for contemporary civilization are still matters for conjecture. This enormous revolution in women's status, whether early or late, eventually influenced almost every community on earth. In order to see in perspective one aspect of this revolution, the women's suffrage movement in New Zealand, it is therefore illuminating to consider briefly how this small section fitted into the large jigsaw pattern of events.

The sentiment or goal that women should have social, economic, and political equality with man became known as 'feminism'. The fundamental wish of feminists was that women should have autonomy in the determination of their lives; that they should be allowed to define for themselves the areas which they would or would not enter, according to their individual talents and potentialities. Their continual cry was that women should be regarded as people, rather than as the female relatives of people. In Victorian society, as over past centuries of civilization, women's lives were governed by the doctrine that there existed a so-called 'woman's sphere'. They were to bear and rear children and attend to household affairs. The only extension of this

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Women's Suffrage in New Zealand
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Preface to the 1987 Edition vi
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Introduction xi
  • I- The New Woman 1
  • 2- Early Parliaments and Women's Rights 12
  • 3- Women and the Temperance Movement 21
  • 4- The Women's Christian Temperance Union 27
  • 5- The Suffrage Movement Gathers Way 36
  • 6- The Movement in Full Swing 46
  • 7- The Politicians' Dilemma 60
  • 8- The Debate on Women's Suffrage 74
  • 9- Success 86
  • 10- The First Election 96
  • II- Liberals, Teetotallers, or Feminists? 108
  • 12- Post Mortem on the Suffrage 119
  • Afterword (1987) 123
  • References 127
  • Bibliography 143
  • Index 150
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