Women’s Suffrage Day

September 19th 1893 was the day when New Zealand women were given the right to vote. Suffrage means the right to vote. New Zealand was the first country in the world to allow women’s suffrage.

Kate Sheppard, the woman responsible for the petition to Parliament, is pictured on our $10 note. If you live in New Zealand, you will be familiar with her portrait. She organized a petition which was signed by one quarter of all the women living in New Zealand at that time. This was a very difficult thing to do when transport was by horse and carriage on very poor roads or by boat. Kate Sheppard organized many women to travel around the country and gain signatures to the petition.

When the law was passed to allow women to vote, the election was just 10 weeks after that; however, women hurried to enrol, and two out of three women in the country voted.

Women did not have the right to stand for Parliament though until 1919 and it wasn’t until 1933 that we had our first woman MP, Elizabeth McCombs.

Listen to 2015 to hear about the petition. Note that some sources say 25% signed while others say 20%.


• suffrage – the right to vote
• petition – signed by many people asking Parliament to do something
• portrait – a picture of a person
• gain – get
• enrol – register your name on the electoral roll
• stand for Parliament – to try to become an MP (Member of Parliament)
• MP – Member of Parliament

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