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Sound: women voting for the first time

Audio file

Hear Mrs Nellie Peryman (nee Levy, 1868-1947) talk about the suffrage campaign and describe voting for the first time in the 1893 election. Read more about Nelie Peryman at Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision


Mrs Peryman: I voted in the parliamentary elections of 1893, when women first had that privilege – that right – and I am voting in this general election [1963?] too. My first vote was in the Hutt electorate, and I well remember the candidates: Dr [Alfred] Newman and Mr Wilford, afterwards Sir Thomas, then making his first attempt to enter Parliament, where he had a very long career. At that time I was first mistress at the Petone School; there were over 600 children attending it in those days. I was very interested in the women's franchise movement, organised by the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and I helped to get signatures for the big petition you've heard about.

Interviewer: New Zealand women were content to petition. I suppose you never thought of stirring up obstinate legislators by setting fire to post boxes or storming Parliament buildings?

Mrs Peryman: Oh no, Mrs Sheppard, who directed the franchise movement, was a lady – in the real early-Victorian sense of the word. She would never have approved of violence. And though we had some provocation, we put up with abusive criticism from our chief opponents, and some silly things were said about our ideas in Parliament.

Interviewer: And so, to impress Parliament, you relied on the enthusiasm of your sex in signing petitions?

Mrs Peryman: Well, all women were not enthusiastic. It meant hard work to collect those signatures, and we met many women who told us quite emphatically they wanted nothing to do with politics. Mrs T.E. Taylor, wife of a very prominent independent member [of Parliament], used to tell a good tale about one of these reluctant women. The lady firmly declined to sign the petition and firmly shut the door in Mrs Taylor's face, but before Mrs Taylor could reach the front gate she was called back. 'Yes,' said the lady, 'I will sign your petition, just to vote against that man Tommy Taylor.' Before we could vote, we had to enrol, and again we went through the experience of finding many women who did not want the voting privilege. One of their strongest objections was that voting meant going to a public polling booth, among a number of strange men. You know, conditions were very different for women in those Victorian days. They always had to have a male escort when they went out. And the idea of asking them to enter a polling booth on election day, when things were rather lively, was so repellent to many people that an effort was made to introduce postal voting for women. That was not adopted.

Interviewer: But you didn't hesitate, Mrs Perryman, to go to the polling booth?

Mrs Peryman: Well, it was a bit unpleasant going among a lot of strange men, but the conditions at Petone, compared with some other places, were very good. And once the women had succeeded in getting the vote, all candidates were anxious to have their support. I remember that in my first election one candidate made a special appeal to the women. His baby son was paraded in a perambulator [pram] with a large placard – 'Vote for Daddy'.

Interviewer: [Laughter] That's good, I wonder if they'd do that today? Thank you.


Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of copyright. To request a copy of the recording, contact Ngā Taonga. Reference no: 31618

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Sound: women voting for the first time, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated