The Story of the First Country to Grant Women the Vote

19 Sep 2020  Sat

In the late nineteenth century, the women's suffrage movement was widespread throughout Northern Europe, America, Britain and its colonies. But the first self-governing country to grant all women the vote was New Zealand on the 19th September 1893.

Kate Sheppard from Christchurch, an English-born leader in the Temperance Union became New Zealand's leading suffragette. She spoke up and down the country to great success and organized a series of petitions to parliament to demand women the vote. These were hugely influential and forcibly contested by figures in the liquor industry.

In 1893 the final petition for women’s suffrage gained nearly a quarter of all adult European women’s signatures. The Governor of New Zealand Lord Glasgow, as the representative of the British monarch, had still to sign the bill into law. Suffragettes put in one final effort and on 19th September 1893, Lord Glasgow signed the bill into law.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand issued a banknote featuring the leading lady of Women Suffrage in New Zealand – Kate Shepherd. The front of the note features a portrait of Kate Sheppard based on a 1905 photograph. To the left of the portrait is a White Camelia. The back of the note features a Blue Duck with three ducklings which is a symbolic gesture.

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