125 Years of Women's Suffrage

May 2015
Wellington, New Zealand
We meet some of the extraordinary women who have helped shape New Zealand history.
Trail Blazers
Women, the Vote and Activism
New Zealand women won the right to vote on 19 September 1893. 125 years on, the Suffrage 125 celebration is an opportunity to remember the suffragists and what they fought for and reflect on women’s rights today. See the Ministry for Women webpage for Suffrage 125 events.

Farida Sultana, founder of the Shakti Community Council New Zealand and Australia.

When Farida Sultana came to New Zealand in 1995 she didn’t intend to set up the Shakti Women’s Network, but she soon saw that there was a desperate need for an agency that could help migrant women. Driven by her own desire for independence and freedom, her struggle became the catalyst for helping women and the beginning of her work as a women’s right activist.

Originally from Bangladesh, Farida endured an extremely controlling and abusive marriage. After many years she escaped and sought refuge with a Shakti women’s organisation in the UK. Just as she was settling into independent life, her family conspired to return Farida to her husband. Trapped in her marriage and unable to make any decisions, Farida and her daughter were forced to come and live in New Zealand. In the following video Farida reflects on her life prior to arriving in New Zealand.

Farida Sultana with Shila Nair, Purple Dandelion. A Muslim woman’s struggle against violence and oppression. Exisle Publishing Limited, Auckland, 2011

SHAKTI NEW ZEALAND – Shakti International

May 2015
Wellington, New Zealand
Yes , there was a bit of a lull in the process after 1893.

On 29 October 1919, the Women’s Parliamentary Rights Act passed into law. Finally, women could stand for election to the House of Representatives.
It had been 26 years since women had achieved the right to vote with the Electoral Act 1893. Previous bills drafted to enfranchise women had included the right to stand for election, but these had been unsuccessful.
Women can stand for Parliament.

The use and abuse of alcohol was widespread in pioneering New Zealand, most visibly among the itinerant communities of men who worked the country's agricultural, maritime and industrial frontiers. It was often said that the main causes of death in colonial New Zealand were 'drink, drowning, and drowning while drunk'. In the late-19th century non-conformist churches encouraged abstinence among their congregations, and numerous temperance lodges were established throughout the country. Temperance was more popular in urban centres, where alcohol was seen as the enemy of the settled and respectable parts of society.

The Alliance urged Parliament to abolish the production and sale of alcohol once and for all. The Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), established in 1885, was also an important voice in the temperance campaign. Women were widely thought to be among the worst affected by alcohol, in an era when they were largely dependent on men for money to sustain the home and family. The WCTU would campaign strongly for women's political rights, helping New Zealand women win the vote in 1893.

At the same time, though, New Zealand's landmark women's suffrage legislation potentially doubled the electorate; many people, on both sides of the temperance debate, felt that women would be more likely to support prohibition.

Publicans, brewers, and spirit merchants were naturally horrified, and moved swiftly to protect their trade. They had a lot to lose if local prohibition spread. The liquor trade organised itself into the National Council of New Zealand. With the backing of many wealthy and prominent businesses, this organisation was generally better-resourced than the New Zealand Alliance.

The National Council spent lavishly on advertising, and used cartoons to portray temperance advocates as joyless puritans – 'wowsers' – who wished to choke all the pleasure out of life and trample on others' liberties. ‘Moderate’ leagues sprang up in many electorates, arguing that people in a free society should be able to choose to drink or not drink.

In December 1919 another poll was held in conjunction with that year's election. To complicate matters, a third option was now added to the ballot paper – state control of the liquor industry. Local ‘no-license’ polls had also been abolished, except in existing dry electorates (there were then 13), where every three years voters could choose whether to restore licenses. In December the prohibition vote reached an even more tantalising 49.7% – no one knew it at the time, but this would be the closest New Zealand would ever get to introducing prohibition.

Meanwhile, war and its aftermath had brought total or partial prohibition to several countries, most notably the United States, which introduced nationwide prohibition in 1919. New Zealanders watched with interest to see how prohibition worked in other countries, and whether it really healed the woes of the world.

American prohibitionist 'Pussyfoot' Johnson sailed into Wellington Harbour on 11 September 1922. He spoke to businessmen at the YMCA at lunchtime and to a packed audience at the Wellington Town Hall that evening. He encouraged his listeners to vote for prohibition because it had improved America’s moral tone.

Debate over the prohibition of alcohol remained one of New Zealand’s most contentious political issues in the 1920s. This pro-continuance poster, probably from 1925 or 1928, shows a New Zealand soldier kicking an old man representing Uncle Sam back across the sea from New Zealand to North America. It urges New Zealanders not to follow the United States in banning alcohol and claims prohibition there (in force since 1919) has caused more harm than good. The ‘Continuance Party’, well funded by the liquor trade, spent heavily on advertising material in the lead-up to national referendums, especially in the 1920s.
The decline of prohibition - Temperance movement | NZHistory, New Zealand history online
May 2015
Wellington, New Zealand
Māori women and the vote
In 1852 the New Zealand Constitution Act provided parliamentary franchise to European, Māori and half caste men who met the property criteria. Fifteen years later, the Māori Representation Act 1867 provided for the establishment of four Māori seats; only men could stand for these. In 1876 the Municipal Corporations Act gave both men and women ratepayers the right to vote and stand for local government office. It is not known how many women exercised this right.
In the last decade of the nineteenth century, Māori women were involved in two suffrage movements at the same time. Māori women supported the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in seeking the right to vote for members of the New Zealand House of Representatives, and they also sought the right to vote and to stand as members of the Māori Parliament – Te Kotahitanga. By the turn of the century both these goals had been achieved. Their involvement in the suffrage movements was a significant development in the story of Māori women and the ways in which they organised at a national level to deal with issues of importance to them and their communities.
The initiative of encouraging Māori women to communicate with each other through the Māori newspapers of last century was taken by women such as Niniwa i te Rangi, Meri Mangakahia and Pani Te Tau. It was an educative process which inspired many women to discuss political issues of the day and also to question their relative status with others in their communities. The medium enhanced Māori women’s abilities to collectively organise and to speak with a unified voice.
Māori women learned the advantages and disadvantages of collaborating with Pākehā women and participated with them in their various organisations for over a hundred years.
Women’s suffrage in this country was more than just women getting the right to vote for members of parliament; it was about women being able to speak on their own terms and having the opportunities to do so. The women mentioned resisted the sexist and cultural oppression of the anti-suffragists and are role models for Māori women today. Their leadership qualities, participation in tribal matters, national networking and entrepreneurial flair are as relevant to Māoridom today as they were one hundred years ago.
Maori Women and the Vote
This sketch was printed in the Illustrated London News in 1880. It shows the Māori parliament held at Ōrākei, Auckland, in 1879. This parliament was organised and led by Paora Tūhaere, the Ngāti Whātua leader. The image at the top right shows Ōrākei from the shore. The main image is of discussions going on during the parliament, and the bottom image shows Ōrākei village.
Kotahitanga - Māori parliament at Ōrākei
Apr 2018
Could you please clarify the latter part.
I think It's pretty clear, suffrage doesn't guarantee you political freedom. I can put you examples like Syria, Morocco, or even examples of supossed "advanced" countries like Germany or Sweden (countries with what magistrate Leibholz called "Parties' state", which abolished representation of the districts, and transformed some political parties into institutions of the state).

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