Women: make the most of right to vote

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Tuesday was the anniversary of women gaining the vote and a timely reminder for women to exercise their voting rights.

On September 19, 1893, a new Electoral Act came into force allowing women in New Zealand the vote for the first time.

The change came about when a large petition was presented to the government, Gore Historical Museum curator Stephanie Herring said.

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

Ms Herring is urging women to take the opportunity to vote.

The fight by women, including Kate Sheppard, to win the right to vote was inspiring for Ms Herring.

“They put themselves out there to give women the right to vote,” she said.

British women had to wait until the 1920s to gain the right to vote, she said.

“It was not something that would be common in lots of countries for a long time.”

The right to vote must have been deeply valued by women such as those serving as nurses in World War 1, she said.

It was remarkable both men and women had equal criteria to vote; there were no extra restrictions put on women, she said.

Women needed to vote if they wanted to have a say in the government that was put in power, she said.

While granting women the right to vote was a big step in the right direction, there was still more work to be done in the area of women’s rights, Ms Herring said.

Pay equity was one area that had recently come under the spotlight.

Ms Herring said the first time she could exercise her vote was not in an election but in the referendum held to gauge which voting method people preferred. In that, MMP won out.

Ms Herring said if people voted the first time they were eligible, they were more likely to carry on the tradition.