The signatures included were by women in New Zealand aged 21 or older who were petitioning the government for the right to vote. The transcripts of this 1893 petition include the following details:
On 19 September 1893, Governor Lord Glasgow passed women’s suffrage in New Zealand with the signing of a new Electoral Act. New Zealand was years ahead of other countries in granting universal women’s suffrage. Both the United States and the United Kingdom succeeded in doing so only after the First World War.
Between the 1880s and 1893, several petitions were circulated and signed in an effort to gain the right to vote for women. Two of these, from 1892 and 1893, have survived to present day and are held by Archives New Zealand. The 1892 petition gained around 20,000 signatures but ultimately failed in its objective. The 1893 petition resulted in 23,853 signatures (with an additional 7,000 added before being shown to Parliament, pushing its total to over its target goal of 30,000 signatures). The individual sheets, totaling more than 500 pages, were adhered together and, when unrolled, measured longer than 270 meters (885 feet).
The 1893 petition, with its abundance of names, was then presented to Parliament. To better capitalize on the thousands of names and the growing demand for the vote, the petition was unfurled with some degree of fanfare: it was, in fact, unrolled down the center aisle of the meeting room, striking the back wall with a resounding bang.
The original petition is on display at Archives New Zealand in the Constitution Room.
Kate Sheppard was a well-known leader of the suffrage movement in New Zealand and helped to create the New Zealand Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Kate was responsible for compiling the 1893 petition as sheet after sheet of signatures came into Christchurch, New Zealand. Kate adhered each sheet to one another, end to end, and wound it around a broom handle. Kate was the seventeenth signer of this petition, signing her name as K.W. Sheppard.
Her work was impactful to the suffrage movement around the world as her efforts helped to make New Zealand the first country to pass universal suffrage. Kate now appears on the ten-dollar note in New Zealand.
Her advocacy went beyond temperance and suffrage, evidenced when she said, 'all that separates, whether of race, class, creed, or sex, is inhuman, and must be overcome'.
These records were provided by Archives New Zealand and published under Creative Commons Licence 3.0: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/au/legalcode