History of women Voting in New Zealand

Did you know that New Zealand was the first country in the world to give all women the vote? In fact, Kiwi women had the vote for almost 30 years before women in America and England were granted the same rights.

Have you ever noticed the pretty lady on the $10 note? That’s Kate Shepard and she is one of the suffragettes who helped make it happen.

In the late 1800s, many women in New Zealand became worried about alcohol consumption and alcohol-related crime. However, as they did not have the power to vote, they were unable to vote for alcohol bans or tighter alcohol laws.

Across New Zealand, women banded together and formed the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. It was established in 1873 and was so successful by 1885 there were fifteen branches nationwide.

Kate Shepard, the lady I mentioned earlier led this Temperance Union. Although the Union started for alcohol abolition it soon extended to wanting the vote.

So Sheppard and her fellow campaigners gathered signatures from women all over the country to petition parliament on the issue.

Signatures Timeline

  • 1891: more than 9000 signatures were gathered,
  • 1892: almost 20,000 signatures were gathered
  • 1893 nearly 32,000 were obtained – this made up almost a quarter of the adult European female population of New Zealand

These petitions were so successful that on 19 September 1893 the Electoral Act 1893 was passed and all women in New Zealand were given the vote. Yay!

The next election was on the 28 November later that same year and significantly more women (82%) actually voted than men (70%).

How much did you know about female suffrage and the history of the vote? Have you got any fun facts to share? Let us know in the comments!

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