Victory at Last

In April 1893 Ballance died and was succeeded by Seddon. Suffragists' hearts sank, but following the presentation of the massive third petition, another bill was easily passed in the House.history-mccombs_0.jpg

Once again, all eyes were on the Legislative Council. Liquor interests petitioned the Council to reject the bill. Suffragists responded with mass rallies and a flurry of telegrams to members. They also gave their supporters in Parliament white camellias to wear in their buttonholes.

Seddon and others again tried to torpedo the bill by various underhand tactics, but this time their interference backfired. Two opposition Councillors, who had previously opposed women's suffrage, changed their votes to embarrass Seddon. On 8 September 1893 the bill was passed by 20 votes to 18.

The battle was still not over. New anti-suffrage petitions were circulated and some Legislative Councillors petitioned the Governor to withhold his consent. In a battle of the buttonholes, anti-suffragists gave their parliamentary supporters red camellias to wear.

Finally, on 19 September, Lord Glasgow signed the bill into law. Suffragists celebrated throughout the country, and congratulations poured in from suffrage campaigners in Britain, Australia, the United States and elsewhere. For women in some of those countries, the struggle would be an even longer and more difficult one.

In New Zealand too, women still had a long way to go to achieve political equality. Women would not gain the right to stand for Parliament until 1919, and the first female MP (Elizabeth McCombs) was not elected until 1933 - 40 years after the introduction of women's suffrage. At the 2002 election 34 women MPs were elected, making up 28% of Parliament.

Read more about these people - and many others - at the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.


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Last updated: 15 February 2013