Media release: 19 September 2013
Did one of your ancestors sign the historic 1893 petition calling for women’s right to vote? Today is Women’s Suffrage Day and the perfect time to find out about the women in your family.
In 1893 almost 32,000 New Zealand women signed petitions calling for the right to vote. On 19 September 1893 the new Electoral Act was signed into law granting them that right.
NZHistory worked with Archives New Zealand and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to make the petition available online as a searchable database. Over the last two years many descendants and researchers have added details about the women whose signatures helped make history. You too can search the petition and add information about family members at:
The petition contains the signatures of many leading suffragists and feminists, including Kate Sheppard, Marion Hatton, Rachel Reynolds, Ada Wells, Tailoresses’ Union leader Harriet Morison, writer Edith Grossman, and sisters Christina and Stella Henderson (whose younger sister, Elizabeth, then too young to sign, would later achieve fame as New Zealand’s first woman MP – under her married name, McCombs).
‘Women’s suffrage is rightly celebrated as a great milestone in New Zealand history,’ says Neill Atkinson, Chief Historian at Manatū Taonga. New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world to grant all women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. In most other democracies – notably Britain and the United States – women couldn’t vote until after the First World War. ‘New Zealand’s world leadership in women’s suffrage has become part of our national identity,’ says Atkinson.
The huge roll of names is now preserved at Archives New Zealand, alongside the Treaty of Waitangi. The international significance of both documents has been recognised by their inclusion on the UNESCO Memory of the World register of documentary heritage.
Learn more about the history of women and the vote in New Zealand at:
Or download our free ebook from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s website:
Updated on 7th October 2019