Eighty years ago today, on 13 September 1933, Elizabeth McCombs was elected as New Zealand’s first female MP. Next week, on 19 September, we celebrate 120 years since New Zealand became the first self-governing country to give women the right to vote in parliamentary elections.
To mark these anniversaries the Ministry for Culture and Heritage has published a free eBook, New Zealand Women and the Vote. The latest in its popular ‘Quick reads’ series, the eBook presents a brief history of the suffrage movement, portraits of key people involved and a timeline charting the rise of women in politics.
Chief Historian Neill Atkinson says that the eBook covers a topic central to New Zealanders’ sense of identity:
‘In most democracies – including Britain and the United States – women did not win the right to the vote until after the First World War. New Zealand’s world leadership in women’s suffrage was crucial to our image as a trail-blazing “social laboratory”.’
Today, the idea that women could not – or should not – vote is completely foreign to New Zealanders. In 2013, 32% of Members of Parliament are female, compared with 13% in 1984. In the early 21st century women have held all the country’s key constitutional positions: prime minister, governor-general, speaker of the House of Representatives, attorney-general and chief justice.
The eBook is available for free download for both Kindle and non-Kindle eBook readers on the Ministry’s website:
For more information about New Zealand women and the vote see these webpages:
New Zealand women and the vote (NZHistory)
Votes for women (Te Ara)
Women’s suffrage petition database (NZHistory)
Māori women and the vote - Ministry of Women’s Affairs website (this information is taken from Tania Rei, Māori Women and The Vote, Huia Publishers, Wellington, 1993)
Updated on 23rd July 2015