Friends of the Turnbull Library Event: Barbara Brookes, Women’s suffrage and citizenship, 12 September 2023

Tuesday 12 September 2023, 5:30pm to 6:30pm

Taiwhanga Kauhau — Auditorium, (lower ground) National Library Wellington. Entrance on Aitken Street or on Zoom

Free. Koha from non-members appreciated.

Women’s suffrage and the right to vote

The campaign for women’s suffrage was driven by important ideas about equality between men and women. On 19 September 1893, a new Electoral Act was signed into law in New Zealand, making this the first self-governing country in the world in to give women the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

A vote is just the beginning

Some New Zealander’s were persuaded of women’s right to vote by reading John Stuart Mill’s On the Subjection of Women (1869). Others read reports of speeches by American suffragists such as Anna Dickinson and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. New Zealand suffragists hoped the world would be made a better place for women and children when women were enfranchised. For them, achieving the vote was just a beginning, rather than an end.

After the vote was won, women — still unable to stand for Parliament until 1919 — petitioned the House for social change. Among other things, they asked for equality in the divorce law, the criminalisation of incest, the raising of the age of consent and the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act.

In this talk, Professor Brookes will explore why these matters were of particular concern to suffragists, and will explore whether the momentum gathered behind the suffrage petitions dissipated in the early twentieth century. She will ask whether the first women members of Parliament had the same objectives as the suffragists or if the new century brought new concerns.

About the speaker

Barbara Brookes is Professor Emerita, University of Otago. She is the author of the prize-winning, A History of Women in New Zealand (Bridget Williams Books, 2016). Her most recent book, co-authored with James Dunk, is Knowledge Making: Historians, Archives and Bureaucracy (Routledge, 2020).

More information can be found here.