125th anniversary of Suffrage in New Zealand

Women Jurors Act allows women to sit on juries

26 October 1942

Elaine Kingsford, New Zealand’s first female juror
Elaine Kingsford, New Zealand’s first female juror (Archives NZ, ARNZ 18828 Weekly Review 115)

The Women Jurors Act provided for women aged between 25 and 60 to have their names placed on the jury list on the same basis as men – if they so desired.

New Zealand’s first female juror was Elaine Kingsford, who sat on a case at the Auckland Supreme Court on 20 October 1943, having been challenged by defence counsel when her name was first drawn the previous day. Interviewed by a National Film Unit crew, she raised the possibility that one day there might even be women judges – a radical idea at the time.

This was one of a number of important milestones for New Zealand women in the 1940s which were in part driven by the demands of war and the absence of servicemen overseas. The first women police officers completed their training in 1941 (see 3 June). In June 1945 Mary Anderson, who had been a Justice of the Peace since 1943, became the first woman to sit on a Magistrate’s Court bench. In January 1946, Anderson and former member of the House of Representatives Mary Dreaver became the first women to be appointed to the Legislative Council, New Zealand’s upper house.