Tag Archives: women’s suffrage

It’s been one hundred and twenty years ……

This coming Friday, 20th September, voting begins in our City Council elections. We will elect a Mayor and other local community representatives. A friend of mine** is standing for election to the Health Board. The fact that she can stand for election (and that I can vote for her) is due to a momentous event that took place on 19 September 1893. It was on this  date, one hundred and twenty years ago, that Lord Glasgow, Governor of New Zealand, signed a new Electoral Act in to law. The new  Act  gave all women in New Zealand the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

The suffragists were jubilant at their success, and this legislation made New Zealand the first self-governing country in the world to give women the freedom to vote. Congratulations came pouring in from around the globe. Our historic victory in tiny New Zealand gave courage and hope to those who still had a long fight ahead of them for women’s suffrage.

The campaign for women’s suffrage in New Zealand was long and hard.  The campaigners, led by Kate Sheppard, compiled a series of petitions, the final one of which was submitted to Parliament on 28 July 1893. It contained more than 25,000 signatures, was more than 270 metres long….and it was successful. The petition is of such significance that it is included in the UNESCO Memory of the World register of documentary heritage. suffrage-petittion_0 (‘Suffrage petition, 1893’, URL: http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/suffrage-petition-1893, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012)

A mere 10 weeks after the new Electoral Act was signed, New Zealand went to the polls on 28 November 1893. In those ten weeks, “109,461 women – about 84% of the adult female population – enrolled to vote in the election. On polling day 90,290 of them cast their votes,” http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/page/women-vote-first-general-election

To understand the excitement and fervour of those first women voters, listen to this wonderful sound recording of three women recalling  their first experience of voting in 1893. Not only are their words wonderful but their New Zealand accents, so different from our accents today,  are too.  http://static.radionz.net.nz/assets/audio_item/0010/2521792/santk-20130909-0000-first_time_women_voters_1893.asx

Sadly, many voters no longer feel that same enthusiasm. In our last general elections in 2011, one million of our eligible voters didn’t use their right to vote. What a waste!

There are many excellent  links to the event we are commemorating today, http://cclblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/suffrage-city/ including my own post (not necessarily excellent 🙂 )

https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/1802/

Kate Sheppard is worth more than Ten Dollars

Kate Sheppard is worth more than Ten Dollars

And, because of the international significance of the achievements of this day in 1893, I would like to recommend two blog posts about women and the recent elections in Australia and Norway. http://misslouella.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/sheilas-eh-who-needs-em/  and http://bentehaarstad.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/democracy-100-years/

Lastly, for the sake of those who fought so hard to give us the right to vote, and, for the sake of those women who cannot vote, or cannot do so easily and freely, when it is time  for any of us to vote, PLEASE VOTE. It matters.

** My friend’s Facebook page is  Vote Allison Franklin for Canterbury DHB

© silkannthreades

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Camellias and Kate and Rare Breeds

Since the flowering of the sasanqua camellias on my birthday, Camelia In CameraI have noticed references to camellias blooming all over my field of vision. Well, by all over, I mostly mean the internet. It’s as if a silent, floral force of camellias has stealthily invaded my cyberspace whilst I have had my eyes temporarily distracted by its earthly representatives. I feel as though I am being camellia-stalked….yes, really, stalked! But that is an unkind thought so I will attribute a purer motive; here it is.  Camellias are simply experimenting with ways to communicate with our increasingly de-naturalised societies.

Who knows? Not me. But, what I do know, is that in the past week I have encountered abundant camellias on the bush in RL.  And, in my internet life, I have met them in books,  blogs, movies, opera, history, (thanks to this wonderful post by blogger Valerie Davies (http://valeriedavies.com/2012/05/ ), and in politics.  Today, I also realised, back in real life, that I often carry camellias in my pocket, for these natural beauties have infiltrated the financial realm. They are  part of our currency.

Three white camellia blooms appear on the New Zealand $10 note. Kate and Camellia They sit in the company of Kate Sheppard; the woman who is credited with leading the fight for women’s suffrage in New Zealand. Thanks to Kate and her campaigners, New Zealand became, in 1893, the first self-governing nation in the world to grant the vote to all women over the age of 21.( http://www.christchurch.org.nz/Women/ ) When the Electoral Bill  was before Parliament,  women suffragettes handed out white camellias to those Members of Parliament who supported the Bill.

Why camellias were chosen to represent women’s right to vote, I have not yet discovered.  It may be that the choice was made under the influence of a popular Victorian interest in  floriology and tussie-mussies.  But it’s most likely that the reason for their choice was more prosaic than that; the camellias would have been one of the few flowers  in plentiful supply in September.  Whatever the reason, the white camellia became, and remains, the symbol of women’s suffrage in New Zealand.

Kate Sheppard was born in Liverpool in March 1847. She arrived in  Christchurch in 1869 and here she stayed.  Kate at home in Christchurchhttp://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Society/People/S/Sheppard-Kate/ ) She was a founding member of the New Zealand Women’s Christian Temperance Union which soon realised that, if women had the right to vote, it would be easier to achieve reforms concerning temperance and the welfare of women and children.

Much as I love our ten-dollar bank-note, I wonder how Kate, as a pillar of the temperance movement, would feel about her face gracing a bill that provides a means to  buy  alcohol. She might disapprove, or she might see some irony in the  possibility of a drinker   confronting  her in the eye before making a purchase.

Overall, I think she would probably see the bigger picture too.  As a excellent strategist she would understand that, by having her features constantly in the public arena, the importance of  women’s suffrage for the general good of humankind would never be forgotten. But enough of Kate. Let’s return to the camellia, who, it seems to me, is every inch as skilled a strategist as  Kate and her suffragettes.  How clever was the camellia to make itself irresistible to a winning campaign; to ensure a lasting place alongside the legacy of one of the most influential women in the world. It guaranteed not only its survival, but its proliferation.  Nice work from a little flower that let’s us believe that  all it does is pose languidly in our gardens.

The question?

Can Kate and the camellia’s winning ways rub off on our precious and vulnerable  blue whio featured on the reverse of the ten-dollar note?Help us Survivehttp://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/native-animals/birds/wetland-birds/blue-duck-whio/facts/about-whio/

A Tussie-mussie: In Kate Greenaway’s book The Language of Flowers, the white camellia japonica symbolises Perfected Loveliness.

© silkannthreades