Election day in New Plymouth, 1893

Photograph depicting the crowds on Brougham Street, New Plymouth, on election day in 1893. A large group of people are standing outside the Provincial Council building where the polling was held. Several horse drawn carriages are visible on the street. 1893 was the first year women in New Zealand were allowed to vote and the photograph clearly shows women amongst the crowd of voters. Photo: Puke Ariki

#WhyIVote – Ten Reasons Why Women Should Vote From 1888

Tuesday September 19 is 124 years since the first women in the world – the women of Aotearoa New Zealand – got the right to vote in general elections. 

The leading campaigner in the fight for universal women’s suffrage in Aotearoa New Zealand was Kate Sheppard. If Kate was around today, she would have been on the Women’s March. You could say she was the original Women’s Marcher.

Not only did she send out women on foot, by horseback, by train and boat all around New Zealand to gather signatures for the Women’s Suffrage Petition, but her success and that of her team of suffragists inspired suffrage movements all over the world.

And it was a long fight that culminated in the governor signing the right to vote into law on September 19, 1893.

The arguments that were put forward then – the presence of women at the polling-booth would have a refining and purifying effect is one such – are a little different to why we vote today but we honour the mahi of the wāhine toa who fought for our right to vote.

Here’s some ten reasons that were given in 1888 by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union why the women of New Zealand should vote. 

1. Because a democratic government like that of New Zealand already admits the great principle that every adult person, not convicted of crime, nor suspected of lunacy, has an inherent right to a voice in the construction of laws which all must obey.

2. Because it has not yet been proved that the intelligence of women is only equal to that of children, nor that their social status is on a par with that of lunatics or convicts.

3. Because women are affected by the prosperity of the Colony, are concerned in the preservation of its liberty and free institutions, and suffer equally with men from all national errors and mistakes.

4. Because women are less accessible than men to most of the debasing influences now brought to bear upon elections, and by doubling the number of electors to be dealt with, women would make bribery and corruption less effective, as well as more difficult.

5. Because in the quietude of home women are less liable than men to be swayed by mere party feeling, and are inclined to attach great value to uprightness and rectitude of life in a candidate.

6. Because the presence of women at the polling-booth would have a refining and purifying effect.

7. Because the votes of women would add weight and power to the more settled and responsible communities.

8. Because women are endowed with a more constant solicitude for the welfare of the rising generations, thus giving them a more far-reaching concern for something beyond the present moment.

9. Because the admitted physical weakness of women disposes them to exercise more habitual caution, and to feel a deeper interest in the constant preservation of peace, law, and order, and especially in the supremacy of right over might.

10. Because women naturally view each question from a somewhat different standpoint to men, so that whilst their interests, aims, and objects would be very generally the same, they would often see what men had overlooked

And you can enrol and vote every day between now and polling day in the 2017 General Election on Saturday, September 23. So why not go out today to make sure they know #katesentme

Source: Ten reasons why the women of New Zealand should vote, NZ History Website

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