National Council of Women formed

13 April 1896

First meeting of the National Council of Women, 1896 (Alexander Turnbull Library, 1/2-041798-F)

Three years after New Zealand became the first self-governing country in which all women could vote, representatives of 11 women’s groups met in Christchurch’s Provincial Council Buildings to form the National Council of Women (NCW).

The NCW aimed to ‘unite all organised societies of women for mutual counsel and co-operation in the attainment of justice and freedom for women, and for all that made for the good of humanity; to encourage the formation of societies of women engaged in trades, professions, and in social and political work; and to affiliate with other national councils of women for the purpose of facilitating international Conferences and co-operation’.

The NCW’s first office holders were heavyweights of the suffrage movement: Kate Sheppard was the president, Marion Hatton, Annie Schnackenberg, Margaret Sievwright and Anna Stout were vice-presidents, Ada Wells was the secretary, and Wilhelmina Sherriff Bain was the treasurer.

In the 21st century, the NCW still works in the interests of women, but today it is a very different organisation from the one established in 1896.