Today is the 119th anniversary of the Electoral Act which gave women in New Zealand the right to vote.
On 19 September 1893 the governor, Lord Glasgow, signed a new Electoral Act into law. As a result of this landmark legislation, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections. . .
That achievement was the result of years of effort by suffrage campaigners, led by Kate Sheppard. In 1891, 1892 and 1893 they compiled a series of massive petitions calling on Parliament to grant the vote to women. . .
An engraving of the time, entitled The Summit At Last shows a woman carrying a flag that reads ‘Perfect Political Equality’ being helped up to the ‘Parliamentary Heights’ by a man.
A hundred and nineteen years on 32% of MPs, six of 20 Cabinet Ministers and one of four Ministers outside Cabinet are women. Two of the seven parties in parliament have female co-leaders.
Some will argue that’s not enough.
But equality isn’t measured in raw numbers. It’s not how many do what but whether those who want to are able to and under the law, thanks to those people who fought to give women the vote, in New Zealand they are.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Many women still face difficulties juggling parenting and careers that most men don’t. But that some women choose to put commitment to their families before paid work isn’t a sign of inequality.
Having the right to do something doesn’t preclude the choice to do something else.