Press Release – Government House
The 120th anniversary of women’s suffrage is being marked with two investiture ceremonies and an investiture dinner at Government House in Wellington this week.
New Zealand became the first nation in the world to grant women the right to vote in national elections when the Governor, Lord Glasgow, gave Royal Assent to an Electoral Bill on 19 September 1893. In most other democracies, including Britain and the United States, women did not win the right to the vote until after the First World War.
The achievement was the result of years of effort by suffrage campaigners, led by Kate Sheppard, whose image now graces New Zealand’s $10 note. They compiled a series of massive petitions calling on Parliament to grant the vote to women, with the third and last in 1893 containing more than 30,000 signatures.
To mark this significant occasion, all of the women honoured in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list were invited to attend two investiture ceremonies at Government House Wellington tomorrow. Some 43 women from throughout New Zealand will be honoured at the two ceremonies.
And on Thursday, the anniversary of the Electoral Bill being given Royal Assent, the Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine Mateparae will host an investiture dinner for the women honoured on the day before.
Sir Jerry Mateparae said the ceremonies and dinner were an opportunity to mark a significant moment in New Zealand’s history and to acknowledge the contribution women have made to New Zealand’s society and economy.
“Investiture ceremonies are the most important duty I undertake on behalf of Her Majesty, the Queen of New Zealand. They are an opportunity for me, on behalf all New Zealanders, to recognise those who have made an enormous contribution to making our nation a better place. They are not people who stand on the side lines and dream of making a difference; they are people who get stuck in, they dare and they do.
“This week, however, that recognition occurs within the context of New Zealand becoming the first nation to grant women the right to vote in national elections. Those early suffrage advocates – both men and women – did not dream alone. They harnessed the power of many to evince great change and showed that people working together for the benefit of others can alter the course of a nation.”