The 1893 Women's Suffrage Petition
In the late 19th century the Women's Suffrage movement, aiming to give women the right to vote, began in New Zealand as it did in other places including Britain and the United States. The movement was strenuously opposed by some men, who felt that for women to take an active part in politics was somehow unnatural. In 1893 there was no state anywhere in the world which had allowed women the right to vote or to stand for election.
After a decade of campaigning in the 1880s, several petitions taken to the New Zealand Parliament through 1891–93 brought the issue into the political arena. The 1893 Women's Suffrage Petition contained no fewer than 23,853 signatures, or about a quarter of the then adult female population of New Zealand. It was the largest petition of its kind signed in New Zealand and other western countries. This petition was accepted by the New Zealand Parliament in the same year.
The 1893 Election Act gave all New Zealand women, including Māori, the right to vote. The New Zealand example led to intensification of the Women's Suffrage movement elsewhere. Australia followed the New Zealand example in 1902, then Finland in 1906, Norway in 1913 and most other states in the years after World War I. Today, equality of men and women in the political sphere is an almost universally accepted political right, but New Zealand was the first in the world to acknowledge the right of women to vote. The 1893 Women's Suffrage Petition was inscribed on the International Memory of the World Register in 1997.