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Sat 5th October 2013

Some history on feminism

Filed under: General — Downunder @ 4:34 pm

One thing that surprises me is what people imagine about history simply because of one piece of information.

‘New Zealand gave women the vote.’ (One that regularly amuses me.)

Now, I am not disputing the fact that the New Zealand parliament passed legislation in 1893 extending voting rights to women. But, the fight for the vote began long before in Europe, England and America.

The Nineteenth Amendment to the American Constitution (for example) which allows women to vote was first introduced some 15 years previous in 1878, although it wouldn’t pass until 1920.

While we had given women the vote it was still a conservative gesture compared to England. Voting was delayed a further 6 years until 1899 and did not include right to stand for parliament, that would not happen until 1919

By this time the much larger English based feminist movement was already pursuing their new freedom and Lady Astor was elected to parliament. So, you could say then that England gave women the right to be MP’s.

New Zealand wouldn’t see a woman stand for parliament until 1923 or see one elected until 1933, although we did have the first woman mayor in the British Empire in the form of Elizabeth Yates elected in Onehunga in 1893.

Given the state of the ark technology back then it was a considerable global campaign that finally reached tipping point in New Zealand – and that is all it was, the place of the tipping point.

It is hard to say how much influence factors such as the telephone had on campaign success in New Zealand. I would speculate that New Zealand probably had the highest per capita ratio of telephones in the world at the time of the passing of the 1893 voting legislation. (The population then was still under half a million.) Who knows?

One thing that hasn’t changed is the politics; Kate Sheppard proclaimed that if women could vote and be represented in parliament it would be better for the children.

I wonder what Sheppard would say if she could see the state of our children now?

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