New Zealand: First to Have Women Vote

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Part 2: Finally, a Victory

One of the first leaders of the New Zealand women's vote movement was Kate Sheppard (right), who also was a leader of the WCTU. She encouraged women across the country to get involved and stand up for their right to vote. Just as in Great Britain and America, New Zealand women had public meetings and parades and circulated petitions urging Parliament to let women vote. Sir John Hall was one of Sheppard's strongest champions, keeping the issue in front of Parliament for many years.

Another leader of the movement was Mary Muller, who published many writings on the cause and eventually persuaded William Fox and Alfred Saunders to champion the idea in Parliament.

Still, the majority of men in government resisted. Men feared that the connection between the women's vote movement and the anti-alcohol movement would come together and that if women were allowed to vote, they would outlaw alcohol altogether. Many men didn't want this.

This was much less of an issue as the 1890s rolled around, however. By this time, Kate Sheppard's friend John Hall was head of the government. He had introduced several bills in previous years, but the government had yet to agree to allow women to vote. From 1890 to 1892, momentum built up to the formation of the Women's Franchise League, with chapters in cities across the country. The sole aim of this organization was to get women the right to vote. But it wasn't just women in these chapters: Men could be full members as well, and many men were.

And by this time, the women's vote movements were in full swing in Britain and America as well. Communication between these two countries had been accelerated, and so New Zealand men and women knew that they were part of something that would eventually be historic.

The time was finally right for women to vote. This finally happened in 1893, when the New Zealand Parliament approved the proposal. On September 19, the Governor of New Zealand signed bill into law, allowing his country to become the first in the world in which women could vote in national elections.

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