Yesterday marked the 124th annual day of Suffrage here in NZ. Kiwi women went out and voted with purpose on this monumental day, at one of the many advance voting spots dotted around the country (and the world!). Because we should, and because we CAN. All thanks to Kate.
The story of Kate Sheppard and her suffragettes is one that proves why voting matters, and why it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Kate was a brave woman who used her steely resolve to battle it out in the courts until finally after some six years of campaigning, petitioning, and convincing, women were granted the right to vote in NZ on 19th September 1893. This right came very late in the day for the election that was happening that year, and with only ten weeks until election day, 88 percent of NZ women were enrolled to vote, and near 70 percent of women cast their vote. They weren’t messing around. They knew what they wanted, and once they had it, they exercised their right with vigour!
One WTF moment I’d like to highlight from the Kate Sheppard story is that after 5 years of hard slog trying to get an Electoral Bill that would allow women the right to vote over the line, which was accepted by the House of Representatives, meaning they were so soooo close… to only have it all fall over again when the Upper Court disputed with the House over whether women should vote via mail rather than by ballot. Both sides couldn’t agree, and so the bill didn’t pass. WHAT THE ACTUAL F*CK?! Bureaucracy; am I right?? Thankfully it was only one more year before the bill passed, just in time for the next election. Phewff!!
I wrote about how I became political last month, but I would say I probably missed a key moment where a fire was lit under my butt in terms my view of and voice on women’s rights. It was a speech by Michelle Obama when last year’s US election train started heading towards a cliff, which purpose, I believe, was to implore women who enjoy greater rights than their ancestors did, to take stock, and realise that nothing is set in stone (“we thought that [lewd sexist behaviour by people in power] was ancient history”), and if you wish to continue to enjoy those rights and freedoms, you’ve got to be awake, tuned in and INVOLVED. When it’s your time to have your say, STEP UP. What you enjoy today could be swept away tomorrow, if you’re not careful and watching. With Michelle’s words in mind, I implore the same from you, my dear Kiwi friends
And so today, this Wednesday after Suffrage Day, I crush all over Kate Sheppard and her fellow suffragettes, and thank them for all that they went through to allow me the right to have a say in my present and future. I am an independent woman, with a brain and a heart, and by golly, you KNOW I’m going to have my say about things that matter.
I’m a Kiwi woman, and thanks to Kate, I have voted. Have YOU?
Extras for Experts:
Kate’s Ten Reasons Why The Women of New Zealand Should Vote (c.1888)
The Women’s March Aotearoa NZ #KateSentMe campaign