On this day September 19, 1893
New Zealand became the first country in the British Empire to introduce universal suffrage, following the women’s suffrage movement led by Kate Sheppard.
The Electoral Bill granting women the franchise was given Royal Assent by Governor Lord Glasgow on 19 September 1893, and women voted for the first time in the election held on 28 November 1893 (elections for the Māori seats were held on 20 December). In 1893, Elizabeth Yates also became Mayor of Onehunga.
Women’s suffrage was granted after about two decades of campaigning by women such as Kate Sheppard and Mary Ann Müller and organizations such as the New Zealand branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.
They felt that female voting would increase the morality of politics; their opponents argued that politics was outside women’s ‘natural sphere’ of the home and family. Suffrage advocates countered that allowing women to vote would encourage policies which protected and nurtured families.