Women's Suffrage in New Zealand

By Patricia Grimshaw | Go to book overview

II
Liberals, Teetotallers, or Feminists?

'I was a fool because I was led astray by the teachings of a clique of hysterical writers who deceived me as well as others; who preached that every bride would take to her bosom a debauched or worthless husband; that all men were selfish, all lustful, most of them brutal; that the pure ethereal wives of these men were fitted to do all things that men could do, and do them better if they had the chance. . . . Men protected us, worked for us, died for us, and we lied about them the cultured women had forgotten how to say"Thank you!"'

From Edward Tregear's novel, Hedged with Divinities, Wellington 1895.

Two allied problems predominate in a study of women's suffrage in New Zealand. What was the basic character of the agitation which pushed the suffrage into prominence, and why was it passed at such an early stage? The answers to neither question can be final, but both invite fuller investigation.

To the first historian of the suffrage movement, W. P. Reeves, the campaign appeared in an uncomplicated light. There was, he asserted, no genuine suffrage movement in New Zealand. All agitation for the vote had been carried out by teetotallers in their attempt to achieve prohibition, motivated by their faith in the temperance potentialities of the women's vote. According to Reeves, temperance leaders grasped what they thought to be an excellent opportunity, and threw the strength of their organizations into the work. Utilizing in particular the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the temperance leaders were able to present petitions for the reform. 1 He added:

'Whether their hot advocacy helped the suffrage cause amongst men more than it hindered it, is a moot point; but it is fair to say that such active desire for the franchise as there was amongst the women was mainly aroused by them. Outside their lodges and their Women's Christian Temperance Union, the attitude of the sex was one of passive interest. . . . It is as well also to point out that the main motives behind

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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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