125th anniversary of Suffrage in New Zealand

Women vote in Māori seats for first time

20 December 1893

Māori men and women congregate at Rotorua on election day, c 1908. (Auckland City Libraries, A14995)

Just over three weeks after the landmark 28 November general election in which New Zealand women became the first in the world to vote in a national parliamentary election, voting was held in the four Māori electorates.

There were no electoral rolls for the Māori seats at this time, but it is thought that around 4000 women voted (out of a total vote in the Māori seats of 11,000). A small number of Māori women – those defined as ‘half-castes’ in the terminology of the time, or those who owned freehold property in their own right – could have chosen to enrol in a general seat and voted on 28 November, but for the great majority of Māori women 20 December marked the day of their first parliamentary vote.

The Māori electoral system had been established in 1867, with universal suffrage for men aged 21 and over. Voting in general and Māori seats always took place on different days until 1951.

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