Skip to main content

Suffrage 125

Page 1 – Introduction

New Zealand was the first self-governing country to grant the vote to all adult women in 1893. This achievement has long been central to our view of ourselves as a nation.

New Zealand women still had a long way to go to achieve political equality. Women could not stand for Parliament until 1919, and the first female Member of Parliament (Elizabeth McCombs) was not elected until 1933. The number of female MPs did not reach double figures until the mid-1980s. The 46 women in the current 52nd Parliament of New Zealand are the highest level of representation for women in our history, at 38% of all MPs. Jacinda Ardern is just the third woman to hold the office of prime minister.

During 2018, new material will continue to appear on this site to support those using this commemoration as a context for deeper inquiry into the significance and impact of women’s suffrage in this country. What else was important to the suffragists – the so-called first-wave feminists? What have been the wins of the women’s movement, and what are women still striving to achieve? What are today’s young women activists fighting for, and how similar or different are their goals and strategies to those of the suffragists?

It is also worth considering the role and purpose of such commemorations. What do we choose to remember as a society, and why? What are appropriate ways to acknowledge and commemorate women’s suffrage, today and in the future?

How to cite this page

Suffrage 125, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated