On this day 125 years ago, women may have won the right to vote, but that was just the beginning of the journey.
As a result of the landmark legislation passed on September 19, 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world in which women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections.
Women fought hard for the vote but met with substantial opposition. For example, the liquor industry lobbied against it because of the fear women would vote for the prohibition of alcohol.
The Ensign spoke to representatives of several organisations in the Gore district which have banded together to commemorate the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand.
Gore District Library senior librarian Penelope Perry said once women gained the vote they were able to create policy and drive legislation.
Soroptimist International South Island president Deborah Wood said she believed there was truth in the saying: Give women the vote, give women the land, and you feed a family, educate a community and empower the economy.
Gore Historical Museum curator Stephanie Herring said it was imperative young people continued to be educated on the relevance and meaning of women gaining the vote.
“You need to know our vote matters,” Ms Herring said.
A quote by campaigner Kate Sheppard – “Do not think your single vote does not matter much. The rain that refreshes the parched ground is made up of single drops” – summed up the need for individual votes, she said.
Gore and Clutha Women’s Refuge manager Sam Munroe said it was important young people who might not be interested in voting take up the opportunity to vote and realise it made a difference.
Mrs Wood said equal pay for women was an issue that needed to be addressed.
Men tended to have less difficulty negotiating higher rates of pay.
When women entered negotiations some people interpreted their stance as being aggressive, Mrs Wood said.
“We’ve got the vote but that type of stuff still exists.”
She believed true equality would exist when individuals were able to use their talents in the best way regardless of their gender.
Rural Women New Zealand member Jeanette McIntyre said attitudes towards women were different among older generations of New Zealanders.
Among older generations, married women had stayed home to raise their children, look after the house and their husband and, if they lived on a farm, help with chores.
Working outside the family farm had not been the norm.
Mrs Perry said because of her traditional family upbringing when she was young she aspired to get married and have children.
However, she had come to want both a career and a family.
Ms Munroe said her 94-year-old grandmother was still working as a private investigator, and had worked all her life, so the expectations in her family were quite different.
Gore District Historical Society president Helen Seaton said when she was young she never questioned the fact men earned more than women for the same job.
“I actually thought that they were right,” Ms Seaton said.
The women agreed the strength of character demonstrated by those fighting for the vote needed to be acknowledged.