The Stored Guide to Suffrage 125
It’s been a week of Kate fever as the nation has (for the most part) been celebrating, commemorating, and congratulating up a suffragette storm. Which is why we have put together this bumper Stored Guide to Suffrage 125.
As 21st century gals, we have a lot to be thankful for. We can be in charge of big companies, it’s cool to have opinions, and pubes are making a comeback. What’s not to love!
125 years ago - while pubes were probably at their absolute peak - other things we’re experiencing today weren’t so crash-hot. Female opinions weren’t great, big companies weren’t crying out for ladies to lead, and voting was completely off the cards. No penis, no politics.
Then, along came Kate Sheppard. In the most simplified version of history you’ll ever come across - Kate did heaps of great stuff. She campaigned bike-riding for women, worked tirelessly for freedom-from-the-corset, and was a booming voice for women’s contraceptive rights. And she also put her heart and soul into winning NZ women the right to vote. It took years, tears, and thirty thousand signatures (which she then unrolled across the chamber of the House floor, like the queen she was born to be), before finally (finally!) the act was passed by both houses of Parliament and became law on 19 September, 1893. The news took New Zealand by girl-power-storm and inspired similar suffrage movements all over the world. Atta girl Kate!
And while voting isn’t a fun privilege - we know it’s an absolute-without-question goddamn right - we can’t ignore the fact that it’s a privilege women haven’t always had. It’s a privilege that was fiercely fought for by incredible women like Kate.
This week, the equality Kate fought for was honoured and examined, and these were what we favoured and found most meaningful.
Jacinda editing a commemorative edition of the NZ Herald, which also made a cool video sharing stories of pioneering women, and this really quite incredible interactive storytelling of the country’s trailblazing wahine.
The interactive, Trailblazers, spans law, politics, culture, sport, health, social justice, and public service to celebrate the women who have made a difference in these sectors.
The commemorative edition came with a note from editor Ardern herself:
“It has been an honour to guest edit this Suffrage anniversary edition of the Herald. I felt an enormous sense of responsibility to not only capture something of what a newspaper would look like if the stories and voices of women were heard on a more regular basis, but to highlight how, within the ordinary, sits the extraordinary. While I have guided and directed a large part of the content, including having a focus on women in sport, in business and as columnists, content and placement of political stories was the decision of the news editor. As I said when the idea was first put to me, summing up 125 years of women's experience in one issue was going to be an impossible task. However I hope that wherever you are, whatever you do, whether young, older or in between, this edition has captured your voice in some way.”
And then there was the beautiful video of Jacinda and Helen Clark in conversation, a joint effort between UN Women National Committee Aotearoa and Stuff.co.nz.
Sitting at Homestead Pah cafe, the two women discuss equality - where we are, and how far we’ve got to go. This is the first time a Clark-Adern convo has been recorded, and is part of the UN Women National Committee Aotearoa’s This is their first ever filmed conversation and is part of UN Women Aotearoa's #Trailblazing125 series.
This is, “An advice series from bold and game-changing wāhine and kōtiro encouraging our future leaders to make an impact. “
It also features 22 others including athletes Dame Valerie Adams and Lydia Ko, actress Thomasin McKenzie, the world's first transgender Mayor and MP Georgina Beyer, former refugee Rez Gardi, and international indigenous rights academic, Jacinta Ruru.
Also by Stuff the the MUST. WATCH, What Women Want panel show hosted by Alison Mau. Actually, this is more of a MUST. SAVE. TO. FAVOURITES. so you can watch it repeatedly, whenever you need reminding of all the incredible women in New Zealand doing all sorts of incredible things.
The video is a recording of a live event about the equality that women still seek, and how to achieve it.
Speakers include Māori Women's Welfare League national president Prue Kapua, Rural Women New Zealand president Fiona Gower, Ministry for Women chief executive Renee Graham, lawyer Mai Chen, Waikato Women's Refuge chief executive Ruahine Albert, lawyer and journalist Catriona MacLennan, Women's Collective founder Dr Sasha Kljakovic, Rape Prevention Education survivor advocate Louise Nicholas, and musician Lizzie Marvelly.
There is also some lol-inducing skits and comedy acts - so prepared to be entertained with your dose of empowerment.
Over on The Spinoff, important attention was given to Maori wahine, exploring the huge amount of agency and influence they experienced before European colonisation.
This video by NZ Tourism is also a nifty wee summary of the whole movement, including Maori women.
On LockerRoom, New Zealand’s first news site dedicated to women’s sport, the great Suzanne Mcfadden chose Suffrage 125 to examine the role New Zealand’s female Olympians have played in making change for women and girls in sport.
Another of Stored’s favourite writers, Michelle Duff penned some of her ever-wonderful words, imploring everyone to follow in Kate Sheppard’s footsteps: “Kate Sheppard opened the door, now let’s burn down the house,” she writes.
Of course this momentous anniversary has not just been celebrated on one day. In our opinions (very good ones), one of the most meaningful long-term projects comes from Auckland Museum’s, Are We There Yet? exhibition.
Named after one of the most important questions: “How far has equality come, and how far has it got to go?”
It runs until October 31, so plenty of time to head along if you’re in the area. But if you’re not, alongside the onsite exhibits, there is digital component to connect women everywhere. We especially like the Venus Envy podcast in conjunction with The Spinoff and Radio NZ. Hosted by journalist and super cool writer Noelle McCarthy, the podcast series talks about what women really want in life, in work, from men, and from each other.
And would it be a historical moment if the national museum didn’t acknowledge it? Probably, by definition, not. So luckily (for them? For you?) Te Papa has a whole heap of exhibitions and events running in women's’ honour. Check out the event program and exhibit schedule if you’re in capital citay, or planning a wee vaycay to the 04.
Another digital project we’ve mentioned before is Our Wahine. Well worth your time, this is a collab between New Zealand artist Kate Hursthouse and her mum, Karen Brook. Our Wāhine is an illustrated history of New Zealand’s extraordinary women.
It’s actually one of many initiatives funded by the government to ensure Suffrage 125 is celebrated in style, and with ample input from communities.
You can check out the other funded projects here - there’s some goodies. Especially the digitised version of the OG petition Kate and mates presented to parliament. You can search to see if your ancestor’s signed it.
Wahine not of the main centres, do not despair: Equality is not just in the big smokes!
We’ve scoured (well, spent a couple our lunch breaks looking) for other events around the country, too. And phwoar, there’s a bit on.
These activities around the country are expected to run until November - or maybe longer, because November 28 marks the first time women were able to exercise their new rights and casted those votes.
It’s Not Over Yet
As we - and the talented journalists, artists, curators, politicians, sportswomen, change-makers and champions of women - have alluded to above: It’s far from over yet.
When it comes to gender-equality progress, the world is still moving at a glacial pace. When we read about sexual violence, hear about our males colleagues earning more for having different down-there-bits, and try to explain the burden of emotional labour for the hundredth time before moving on and just doing the thing ourselves, it can all feel pretty exhausting, pointless and shitty. Like we’re fighting a losing battle.
But we’re not. We’re honestly, truly not. Today’s world needs passionate, strong wahine - just as it did 125 years ago. Kate scored us the vote, and we’ll be forever grateful for her never-say-die attitude. What she did was monumental - and what we are all doing can be monumental too.
We’re not saying everyone has to go out there and inspire a world-wide life-changing movement (although, if you’ve got one in mind then defs give it a go) - we just want to encourage everyone to keep going, because you’re all doing a really great job. And when things feel exhausting, pointless and shitty - maybe we could all stop for a moment and think, ‘WWKD?’. We think she’d probably rip off her corset, jump on her bike, and head out into the world to give it one more go.
Celebrate your victories, enjoy your success - be proud of what you’re doing.
Celebrate women every day. Support women every day. Enable women every day. Recognise women every day. Hear women every day.