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Suffrage Day a national day of pride

Suffrage Day a national day of pride

New Zealand led the world in September 1893 when it became the first nation to allow women to vote in general elections and it is an anniversary the Minister of Women’s Affairs Pansy Wong wants widely recognised.

“On September 19, 117 years ago New Zealand made history. Suffrage day is New Zealand’s first world first and we showed that we are a progressive and fair people. We also helped change world attitudes,’’ Mrs Wong says.

“It is an event which defines us as a nation yet we do little to celebrate this significant milestone and that is something we must change. New Zealanders can and should take pride in their achievements and this is a significant one.’’

Mrs Wong says the 1893 Suffrage petition was signed by 32,000 people throughout New Zealand and nearly 24,000 of those signatures remain on a copy held in the National Archives in Wellington.

Copies of the document are on display in the Wellington and Christchurch libraries and she urged people to take the time to look at it.

“Among those 23,853 signatures you may well find one of your great grandparents or other forebears. Who knows – your great uncle Henry could well have been a suffragist.’’

An event to celebrate Suffrage Day is being held in Parliament on Wednesday evening and another is planned for Christchurch on Suffrage Day this Sunday, but will depend on the recovery from the earthquake and the wishes of Cantabrians.

A new web resource Maori Women and the vote, acknowledging the huge role Maori women played in the struggle for women’s rights, was launched at an event in Auckland on Monday. It can be viewed on the Ministry of Women’s Affairs website

It is planned to have some innovative footpath graphics that begin to tell the suffrage story in Wellington’s Civic Square.

Mrs Wong said the Government has great aspirations for women.

“We want more women in leadership roles across the economy. We want to eliminate the damaging impacts of violence against women. We want to ensure all women can be engaged in the economy and be fully rewarded for their efforts, and work is already underway to achieve these things.

“Most importantly, 117 years later we must continue to exercise our hard won right to vote and encourage other women to do so as well.

“We must also take pride in our amazing history, honour Suffrage Day with the recognition it deserves and celebrate it accordingly,’’ Mrs Wong says.


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