125 years of vote for women to be marked

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Women were given the right to vote 125 years ago, and Gore district women were among those keen to gain the right to line up at the polling booth.

Gore Historical Museum curator Stephanie Herring said planning was under way to mark the milestone.

September 19, 1893 was when women were granted the vote, and November 28, 1893 was the first polling day on which they had the right to cast their votes.

New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote.

Now campaigns like #Me Too had brought to light the modern-day struggles women were facing.

It was also interesting to look at how far women had come in relation to equal rights and the fight for equal pay since those victorious days, Ms Herring said.

She questioned whether women had truly achieved equality across all aspects of their lives.

The Ensign reported in June 1893 that the Town Hall in Gore was filled to overflowing for a meeting in favour of the women’s franchise movement.

“A large proportion of the audience consisted of ladies,” the report stated.

“On the stage were a number of local lady supporters as well as several of the sterner sex,” it said.

The women resolved to back the movement claiming the vote for women.

Mary Morgan pointed out all great reforms had been accomplished only after overcoming opposition and thought the evils of “drink” and gambling would be vanquished if women were granted the franchise.

Andrew Martin, a supporter, said if the Bill was again thrown out, there would be a “tremendous rumpus”.

Once the vote was granted, women attended candidate meetings, Ms Herring said.

Jessie Forbes and Hannah Morgan were the first women to wait outside the courthouse to vote.

“They were determined,” Ms Herring said.

“There was a strong temperance flavour to the make up of that group of women,” she said.

Nationally there were 12 petition lists collected supporting the introduction of the vote, but there was only one list still surviving, she said.

There were about 28,000 signatures on that list.

Former Gore woman Rosemarie Smith said in her book The Ladies Are At It Again! Gore Debates The Women’s Franchise that at the Gore meeting, Agnes Lakeman proposed the first resolution: “that this meeting is of the opinion that women are entitled to the Parliamentary franchise, not as a privilege, but as a right”.