Special Collections is marking 125 years of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa New Zealand with a display looking at the power of petitions.
The display includes a minute book kept by the Auckland Women’s Franchise League (AWFL), a local committee set up to support the national movement campaigning for the enfranchisement of women.1
The AWFL played a major role collecting signatures in Auckland for the 1893 suffrage petition organised by Kate Sheppard of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.2 AWFL members, including president Mrs Amey Daldy, circulated blank copies of the petition in their neighbourhoods, covering the region from Devonport to Mangere. Despite this coverage, there were pockets such as Otahuhu which still needed canvassing so Mrs Daldy mobilised volunteers to visit these areas and collect signatures. The Auckland petition sheets were then collated and sent to Mrs Sheppard in Christchurch. AWFL women also agitated for the right to vote by holding public meetings and writing to local Members of Parliament (MPs).
The efforts of women throughout New Zealand resulted in 13 petitions being presented to Parliament on 28 July 1893. They included the signatures of nearly 32,000 women, representing almost 25 percent of European women of voting age in the country. The largest compiled petition, which included the signatures collected by the AWFL, was 270 metres long.3 As a result of these petitions, an electoral bill containing a clause on women’s franchise was accepted by Parliament on 8 September 1893. Despite the extent of petitioning, the vote on the bill was close at 20 votes to 18. The Governor signed the bill into law on 19 September 1893.4 At the first AWFL meeting after that historic occasion, members read out congratulatory letters and telegrams and passed a resolution to send thank you letters to Auckland MPs who had supported the bill.
Since then, as the display shows, petitions have remained a popular method of advocating for social change and engaging in the democratic process.
Visit the display until 24 September outside Special Collections on General Library Level G.
Katherine Pawley and Sarah Dunbar, Special Collections
1 Minutes and other records of the Auckland Women’s Political League, 1892-1916. MSS & Archives 2009/6, item 1. Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.
2 Ministry for Culture and Heritage. (2018). Brief history. Retrieved from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/womens-suffrage/brief-history
3 Ministry for Culture and Heritage. (2018). About the suffrage petition. Retrieved from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/womens-suffrage/about-the-petition
4 Ministry for Culture and Heritage. (2018). Brief history. Retrieved from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/womens-suffrage/brief-history