Ada Wells worked tirelessly in a bid to achieve equality and economic independence for women. She is perhaps best remembered for her contribution to the women's suffrage campaign in the 1880s and 90s, and for becoming the first woman elected to the Christchurch City Council in 1917.
Elizabeth Yates' election as mayor of Onehunga on 29 November 1893 – the day after New Zealand women had led the world by voting in a general election for the first time – cemented her place as a pioneer of women's political rights. She was the first woman in the British Empire to hold the office of mayor.
Anna was strongly influenced by her Presbyterian parents who were committed to the prohibition movement and heavily involved in other social reforms. She shared these values with her husband Robert Stout, a barrister and Member of Parliament, whom she married in 1876. He became Attorney-General in 1878 and was Premier from 1884 to 1887. Anna commuted between Dunedin and Wellington while raising six children.
Meri Te Tai Mangakahia (1868–1920), of Te Rarawa, was born in the Hokianga district. Her husband, Hamiora Mangakahia of Hauraki, was elected Premier of the Māori Kotahitanga Parliament in 1892. At a meeting of the Parliament in Hawke’s Bay in 1893 Meri Te Tai presented a motion requesting that women participate in the selection of members.
Forty years after women in New Zealand received the right to vote, Elizabeth McCombs became the first female Member of Parliament. She won a by-election in the Lyttelton seat for the Labour Party on 13 September 1933.
According to one of her elder sisters (she was one of nine children) Elizabeth was 'lazy at school and we did not expect great things from her'. She became politically active, however, in organisations dedicated to the removal of women's civil and political disabilities, and was a prominent figure in the New Zealand Women's Christian Temperance Union.
Women in the HouseFor much of its first century, Parliament was a bastion of male culture. Women could observe it from a discreet distance from the ladies' gallery, and by the 1880s, the odd female reporter had ventured in, but she had only men's activities to report. Women got the vote in 1893, making New Zealand the first country to have full adult suffrage (or voting rights), but women could not stand for Parliament until 1919. It was not until 1933 that the first woman Member of Parliament (MP) took her seat in the House. In the 1950s and 1960s there were still few women MPs, and this did not change until the 1980s. From then, women were appointed to Cabinet in increasing numbers and to senior positions in Parliament, such as whip and Deputy Speaker. From the 1990s women made up about 30% of Members. In 1997 Jenny Shipley became New Zealand's first female prime minister. Then in 1999 Helen Clark led her Labour Party to victory.
These petitions, signed by 9000 women, contributed to the introduction of a Female Suffrage Bill in Parliament. But while this received majority support
in the House of Representatives, it was defeated in the Legislative
This massive suffrage petition − signed by more 25,000 women, about a fifth of the entire adult European female population − helped pave the way for the passage of New Zealand's world-leading Electoral Act in September 1893.