While the Women’s Suffrage Movement has been a battle fought since the 18th Century, it is astounding that some countries are still only just coming onboard almost 300 years later. 300! In 1718 Sweden, taxpaying female ‘members of city guilds [were] allowed to vote in local [and national] elections’ a move that was rescinded in 1758 for the former and 1771 for the latter.
Pitcairn Island and the Isle of Man were both ahead of the game without being self-governing countries with the former offering universal suffrage in 1838 and the latter in 1881 as well as various American states signing on before 1893 but it was New Zealand that became the first country to extend women the right to vote in 1893, an action that beat every other country by a minimum of nine years with Australia following suit in 1902 and Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland following suit over the next 13 years.
It was an act that came about after two decades of campaigning by New Zealand women with the help of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (a women’s organisation advocating the total abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and all other drugs) who upon noticing that the bulk of the support for moderation came from women, took an active role in supporting the suffrage movement in New Zealand, arguing that “women could bring morality into democratic politics”.
It’s an harrowing thought to know that there are still so many countries around the world which still do not allow women this fundamental right and that a group of acutely motivated women in the late 1800s could garner a positive result that is ignored and yet-to-be achieved by these countries.
It impresses me that New Zealand is so forward in so many ways while still being such a sheltered country, steadfast in its beliefs about what this country stands for and what it will and will not allow, regardless of what superpowers try to coerce us into accepting.
In light of New Zealand’s forward-thinking attitude and in celebration of the 120 years of women’s suffrage celebration, this infographic below from Statistics NZ highlights the achievements of the women’s suffrage movement in New Zealand.