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19 September 2023: Celebrating 130 years of women’s suffrage in New Zealand

Women today have much to be grateful for, thanks to the endeavours of women like Kate Sheppard who led the New Zealand Suffrage movement, and Amey Daldy, a major character in Lucy, book 3 of The Art of Secrets series who co-ordinated the women of Auckland.

Without these women standing up for their rights, women today would not have the many rights they do. While several small states, colonies, islands and territories allowed some women to vote prior (mostly spinsters and widows who owned property in their own right) many of these rights were also later rescinded and were not universal. New Zealand was the first country to grant universal suffrage to all women over the age of twenty-one, regardless of their status, on this day in 1893.

Women's suffrage memorial, Christchurch – Voting rights – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Women’s Suffrage Memorial, Christchurch
Kate Sheppard (centre), Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia, Amey Daldy, Ada Wells, Harriet Morison and Helen Nicol.

What is surprising and somewhat concerning is how long it took the world to catch up with New Zealand. In this timeline of countries, some of which still do not fully grant women the franchise or limit the criteria and their ability to vote, you can see what a struggle it has been, and remains to be.

In the Australian colony of Victoria, women were unintentionally enfranchised by the Electoral Act (1863), and proceeded to vote in the following year’s elections. The Act was amended in 1865 to correct the error, but Aboriginal men and women did not get the right to vote until 1962. The women of Australia began voting in various states from 1901 but not until 1903 did all women have the right to vote.

The United States of America granted federal rights to white women in 1920, but not to black men and women, while the women in the United Kingdom did not receive the franchise until 1928, some thirty-five years later than New Zealand women. In Europe, Switzerland did not grant women federal rights until 1971 and the last jurisdiction to grant women the right to vote was the Swiss canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden (AI), in 1991.

So, I say to the women of New Zealand, celebrate – and never forget the achievements of those women of the past.

Women’s Suffrage Memorial, Khartoum Place, Auckland
(Left to right) Amey Daldy (1829-1920), Anne Ward (1825-1896), Lizzie Rattray (1855-1931), Matilda AllsoppElizabeth Yates (1840-1918), Annie Schnackenberg (1835-1905), Fanny Brown & two unnamed suffragists.

Lucy: The Suffragist – a compelling tale of the courageous women who fought for their right to vote

(The Art of Secrets: Dual-timeline family sagas about finding your roots Book 3) 

Emma’s curiosity is piqued by a gutsy young climate change campaigner with an antique trinket box full of women’s rights badges, but tracing their history pushes her to her limit.

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