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Why New Zealand was the first country where women won the right to vote



File 20180914 177962 ftgwba.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
A memorial by sculptor Margriet Windhausen depicts the life-size figures of Kate Sheppard and other leaders of the Aotearoa New Zealand suffrage movement.
Bernard Spragg/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-ND

Katie Pickles

125 years ago today Aotearoa New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant all women the right to vote.

The event was part of an ongoing international movement for women to exit from an inferior position in society and to enjoy equal rights with men.

But why did this global first happen in a small and isolated corner of the South Pacific?




Read more:
Women’s votes: six amazing facts from around the world


Setting the stage

In the late 19th century, Aotearoa New Zealand was a volatile and rapidly changing contact zone where British settlers confidently introduced systematic colonisation, often at the expense of the indigenous Māori population. Settlers were keen to create a new world society that adapted the best of Britain and left behind behind the negative aspects of the industrial revolution – Britain’s dark satanic mills.

Many supported universal male suffrage and a less rigid class structure, enlightened race relations and humanitarianism that also extended to improving women’s lives. These liberal aspirations towards societal equality contributed to the 1893 women’s suffrage victory.

At the end of the 19th century, feminists in New Zealand had a long list of demands. It included equal pay, prevention of violence against women, economic independence for women, old age pensions and reform of marriage, divorce, health and education – and peace and justice for all.

The women’s suffrage cause captured widespread support and emerged as the uniting right for women’s equality in society. As suffragist Christina Henderson later summed up, 1893 captured “the mental and spiritual uplift” women experienced upon release “from their age-long inferiority complex”.

Two other factors assisted New Zealand’s global first for women: a relatively small size and population and the lack of an entrenched conservative tradition. In Britain, John Stuart Mill presented a first petition for women’s suffrage to the British Parliament in 1866, but it took until wartime 1918 for limited women’s suffrage there.

Women as moral citizens

As a “colonial frontier”, New Zealand had a surplus of men, especially in resource towns. Pragmatically, this placed a premium on women for their part as wives, mothers and moral compasses.

There was a fear of a chaotic frontier full of marauding single men. This colonial context saw conservative men who supported family values supporting suffrage. During the 1880s, depression and its accompanying poverty, sexual licence and drunken disorder further enhanced women’s value as settling maternal figures. Women voters promised a stabilising effect on society.

New Zealand gained much strength from an international feminist movement. Women were riding a first feminist wave that, most often grounded in their biological difference as life givers and carers, cast them as moral citizens.

Local feminists eagerly drew upon and circulated the best knowledge from Britain, America and Europe. When Mary Leavitt, the leader of the US-based Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) visited New Zealand in 1885, her goal was to set up local branches. This had a direct impact, leading to the country’s first national women’s organisation and providing a platform for women to secure the vote in order to affect their colonial feminist concerns.

Other places early to grant women’s suffrage shared the presence of liberal and egalitarian beliefs, a surplus of men over women, and less entrenched conservatism. The four frontier US western mountain states led the way with Wyoming (1869), Utah (1870), Colorado (1893) and Idaho (1895). South Australia (1894) and Western Australia (1899) made the 19th century and, before the first world war, were joined by other western US states, Australia, Finland and Scandinavia.

Local agency

Social reformer and suffragist Kate Sheppard, around 1905.
Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-ND

New Zealand was fortunate to have many effective women leaders. Most prominent among them was Kate Sheppard. In 1887, Sheppard became head of the WCTU’s Christchurch branch and led the campaign for the vote.

The campaign leaders were well organised and hard working. Their tactics were petitions, pamphlets, letters, public talks and lobbying politicians – this was a peaceful era before the suffragette militancy during the early 20th century elsewhere.




Read more:
Adela Pankhurst: the forgotten sister who doesn’t fit neatly into suffragette history


The women were persistent and overcame setbacks. It took multiple attempts in parliament before the Electoral Act 1893 was passed. Importantly, the suffragists got public opinion behind the cause. Mass support was demonstrated through petitions between 1891 and 1893, in total garnering 31,872 signatures, amounting to a quarter of Aotearoa’s adult women.

Pragmatically, the women worked in allegiance with men in parliament who could introduce the bills. In particular, veteran conservative Sir John Hall viewed women’s suffrage as a way to a more moral and civil society.

The Suffrage 125 celebratory slogan “whakatū wāhine – women stand up!” captures the intention of continuing progressive and egalitarian traditions. Recognising diverse cultural backgrounds is now important. With hindsight, the feminist movement can be implicated as an agent of colonisation, but it did support votes for Māori women. Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia presented a motion to the newly formed Māori parliament to allow women to vote and sit in it.

New Zealand remains a small country that can experience rapid social and economic change. Evoking its colonial past, however, it retains both a reputation as a tough and masculine place of beer-swilling, rugby-playing blokes and a tradition of staunch, tea drinking, domesticated women.The Conversation

Katie Pickles, Professor of History at the University of Canterbury and current Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi James Cook Research Fellow

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Article: Why Do So Many Countries End in “-stan”?


The link below is to an article that looks at why so many countries end in ‘stan.’

For more visit:
http://www.mentalfloss.com/blogs/archives/140674


Today in History: 21 May 1994


Yemen: The Republic of Yemen is Formed

On this day in 1990 the Democratic Republic of Yemen and North Yemen merge to form the Republic of Yemen. In 1994 the Democratic Republic of Yemen attempted to secede from the Republic of Yemen and war broke out. Yemen is a country torn by civil unrest.

For more, visit:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_Yemen


Today in History: 16 May 1975


India Annexes Sikkim

On this day in 1975, following a referendum in which the people of the Himalayan country of Sikkim voted in favour of merging with India, India annexed the country.

For more, visit:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikkim


Article: Bir Tawil


The following articles deal with a region known as Bir Tawil on the border between Egypt and Sudan. It is a region that neither country seems to want. The article examines the history of the region.

Read the article at:
http://dlewis.net/nik-archives/no-mans-land/
http://bigthink.com/ideas/21449


Today in History – 15 May 1940


USA: The First McDonald’s Restaurant Opens In San Bernardino, California

On this day in 1940 the first McDonald’s Restaurant opened in San Bernardino, California in the United States. This first restaurant was opened by Richard and Maurice McDonald. Ronald McDonald didn’t arrive on the scene until 1967.

Australia’s first McDonald’s restaurant opened in 1971 in Yagoona (Sydney), New South Wales, Australia. There are now almost 800 McDonald’s restaurants around the country.

For more on McDonald’s and there history visit:
http://www.mcdonalds.com

http://www.aboutmcdonalds.com/mcd/our_company/mcd_history.html

For more on McDonald’s in Australia visit:
http://mcdonalds.com.au

McDonald’s on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/McDonalds

 


Today in History – 11 May 1867


Luxembourg Independence Maintained

Luxembourg, known as the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, is a small country in western Europe bordered by Belgium, France and Germany. It has a population of about 500 000 people and is almost 1000 square miles (2 586 square kilometers) in size. It’s ‘life’ began as a small fortress in 963, from which a town developed and eventually the state of Luxembourg.

Luxembourg lost its initial independence in 1437 and from that point it was ruled by various states, but regained a form of independence following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815. From then however, it lost territory and was greatly reduced in size. Its independence was affirmed with two treaties, the first in 1839 and the second on this day in 1867, following what
is known as the Luxembourg Crisis.

For more on Luxembourg:
http://www.luxembourg.co.uk/
http://www.luxembourg.com/

 


Today in History – 29 April 1672


Louis XIV: Franco-Dutch War – France Invades the Netherlands

The Franco-Dutch War was more than a war between France and the Netherlands, then known as the United Provinces. It involved a host of other nations including Sweden, Spain, England and other less known regions/countries. The war lasted from 1672 to 1678 and ended with the Treaty of Nijmegen.

This day in 1672 saw the beginning of the war with the French invasion of the United Provinces and they quickly made progress into the country. However, as the war continued it quickly became a stalemate-type situation, though the French did gain territory from the Treaty of Nijmegen.

For a more detailed treatment of the war, see the Wikipedia page at:
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Dutch_War

 


Today in History – 27 April 1124


Scotland: David I Becomes King

On this day in 1124, upon the death of his brother Alexander I, David (Dabíd mac Maíl Choluim) made himself king of Scotland with the full backing of Henry I of England. He had been Prince of the Cumbrians (1113-1124) before becoming King of Scotland (1124-1153). Cumbria was in effect a separate kingdom to that of Scotland (known as Alba) to the north and became merged with it upon the ascension of David to King of Scotland.

His reign was one of warfare and expansion, with the first 10 years of his reign involving a struggle for power with his nephew (the son of Alexander I) Máel Coluim mac Alaxandair. With the death of Henry I of England, he came into conflict with King Stephen and expanding the Scottish Kingdom into northern England.

David I is seen as a ‘reformer’ in the Scottish Church, setting out to reorganise the church. The map in this post shows the boundaries of the various dioceses he put in place. He is also seen as a reformer of Scotland as a whole, bringing civility to a barbaric country.

David I was born between 1083 and 1085, and died on the 24th May 1153. He is buried in Dunfermline Abbey. He was succeeded by Malcolm IV.

 


Today in History – 25 April 1915


ANZAC: First Landings at Gallipoli – Turkey

Around the world today, Australians and New Zealanders will be remembering the fallen, on what is now known to us as ANZAC Day. ANZAC Day is remembered annually on the anniversary of the first major military action fought by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I. On this day in 1915, ANZAC troops landed on the beach of what is now Anzac Cove. Gallipoli was evacuated in December 1915. The campaign was a disaster, but a legend was born out of it, that of ANZAC.

ABOVE: Map Showing the Location of Gallipoli

ANZAC Day was officially held for the first time in 1916 with a number of ceremonies and services held in Australia, New Zealand, England and Egypt. It was not until 1927 however, that Australians held their first uniform remembrance day and it became more established after that.

From the Second World War, ANZAC Day took on a broader significance, as a day to remember the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in both Australia and New Zealand.

For more visit these sites:

 


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