In 1893 New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant women the vote – despite claims that families would be abandoned and the economy destroyed. Kate Sheppard, leading light of the suffrage movement, was vindicated when 65% of New Zealand women took the chance to vote in their first general election.
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.
SIR, – I would like, through the medium of your columns, to ask 'Polly Plum' to state in a few short petty sentences, without any of that circumlocution which characterises her letters, what she demands as 'Women's rights'?
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.