International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day. In many countries it is a holiday but not in New Zealand. In fact, New Zealand women often choose to celebrate September 19th instead. That was the day in 1893 when women were given the right to vote for Members of Parliament. NZ was the first country in the world to give women this right. All women, aged 21 and over, had this right – Maori, European, single, married, rich or poor.

However, it was only in 1919 that women were allowed to be Members of Parliament – MPs. The first female MP was in 1933.

The story of how women tried for seven years to win this right to vote is an interesting story. They were called Suffragettes because suffrage means the right to vote. Finally, they had the signatures of 31,872 women, almost one quarter of all women in the country at the time. Women signed their names to a petition asking for the right to vote. This petition was 270m long. It was carried into Parliament in a wheelbarrow. The male Members of Parliament passed the bill giving women the vote at the next election. It was passed by 20 votes to 18.

To see the first page of the petition with some signatures on it, click here.

Vocabulary

petition – asking Parliament for something
wheelbarrow – a small cart with one wheel and two handles, used by gardeners

Questions

1. When did women get the vote in your country?
2. Can women become MPs?
3. International Women’s Day is also a day to remember that women are still trying to gain equality with men in many ways. In your country, are women in important positions in government, in education and in business?






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