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Celebrate two He Tohu milestones — the exhibition's first birthday and Suffrage 125

May 15th, 2018 By Dylan Owen

Come in and help us celebrate or learn more online about He Tohu's 3 iconic documents, He Whakaputanga (Declaration of Independence), Te Tiriti o Waitangi (Treaty of Waitangi), and the Women's Suffrage Petition.

2018 has some significant milestones for the Archives New Zealand / National Library exhibition, He Tohu. Not only does the exhibition and its accompanying online teaching and learning resources turn one year old, but a document in the exhibition, the Women's Suffrage Petition, turns 125!

Happy birthday candles on a cake.
Happy Birthday! by Stuart Caie. CC BY-NC 2.0

Double the birthdays, double the learning opportunities!

He Tohu is a permanent, multi-award exhibition, located at the National Library, Wellington and online. It displays 3 iconic constitutional documents that shape Aotearoa / New Zealand:

  • 1835 He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni — Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand. He Whakaputanga is the document in which Māori formally declared themselves a nation.
  • 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi Treaty of Waitangi. Te Tiriti is considered the founding national document of New Zealand.
  • 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition — Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine. The 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition is the instrument of change in which the women of New Zealand demanded the right to participate in political life.

Rā whānau He Tohu!

Help us celebrate He Tohu’s birthday! If you're in Wellington, come join us between 10am and 2:30pm on Saturday 19 May. There's music by some formidable mana wahine performers such as Sianne Dougherty and Ariana Tikao singing in te reo and the Feisty Feckin’ Fulltime Feminists singing traditional union and suffrage songs.

There'll also be a speaker series featuring influential women such as He Tohu curator Stef Lash, Dame Claudia Orange, ActionStation director Laura O’Connell Rapira, and National Council for Women President Vanisa Dhiru.

Celebrate He Tohu's birthday

About He Tohu's Whānau Day on Facebook

And if you haven't already, see He Whakaputanga, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and the Women's Suffrage Petition in the magnificent document room that was inspired by the form and function of a waka huia (treasure container).

Happy quasquicentennial (125 years) of women's suffrage!

2018 marks 125 years since Kate Sheppard's Women's Suffrage Petition, was created and circulated throughout the country. On 19 September 1893, the Electoral Act 1893 was passed, making New Zealand the first country in the world to give women the
right to vote.

Learn about He Tohu online

The He Tohu exhibition is not just a Wellington experience. There's great information online
about the documents on the He Tohu website.

To inspire further thinking, watch some videos of New Zealanders, young and old, talking about the documents, issues around them, and their visions for the future.

Teaching resources

Looking for resources to do some social inquiry with your students?

Our educational experts have developed teaching resources to support students as they explore contemporary issues related to He Whakaputanga, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and the Women's Suffrage Petition. These social inquiry resources are aligned with achievement objectives at levels 3, 4, and 5 of the New Zealand Curriculum.

The first 2 resources we've developed explore gender equality and cultural interaction in Aotearoa New Zealand.

More resources for learning about Suffrage 125 and He Tohu's documents

There are more great teaching and learning resources available about the 3 documents and Suffrage 125. Many revolve around the fascinating stories they have revealed, helped create, and inspired. Here's a small sample...


DigitalNZ has over 20 women’s suffrage and 10 Treaty of Waitangi stories making it a quick and productive way to explore these topics. Simply type in a keyword — like 'suffrage' — then click on the 'stories' tab.

Topic Explorer

Topic Explorer helps you find quality, curated New Zealand and overseas resources. Topic sets relevant to He Tohu and Suffrage 125 include:

Archives New Zealand

Archives New Zealand has a treasure trove of Flickr albums covering New Zealand history including:

Many Answers

Many Answers entries are specifically designed to guide students to find quality information on their chosen topics including:

Other online resources

NZHistory features extensive and definitive information on New Zealand history. Check out their Suffrage 125 in the classroom resource and, in relation to the Treaty, New Zealand Wars classroom resource.

TKI has Waitangi Day — how will you commemorate? which lists extensive resources to encourage teachers to consider Waitangi Day and how to use the Treaty principle in curriculum decision making.

Inspirational reads — borrow books from our collections

Don’t forget our extensive fiction and non-fiction school lending collections. Order themed books such as the following from our lending service:

Avoid Being a Suffragette by Fiona Macdonald — presents facts about the women's suffrage movement. Suggested level: Primary, intermediate. Non-fiction.

Go Girl: A Storybook of Epic NZ Women by Barbara Else — a collection of true stories about extraordinary New Zealand women. Suggested level: Intermediate, Secondary. Non-fiction.

The Changing Role of Women Since 1900 by Louise Spilsbury — examines the changing role of women throughout the twentieth century. Suggested level: Primary, intermediate. Non-fiction.

The Tree Hut Treaty by Wiremu Grace — this book teaches children about treaties and the principle behind the Treaty of Waitangi. Suggested level: Primary, intermediate. Picture book.

Te Wairua o Waitangi by Sharon Holt — children are taught how to honour the Treaty of Waitangi through song. Suggested level: Primary. Non-fiction.

Women's Suffrage by Lynn Peppas — the spread of female suffrage is one of the twentieth-century success stories. Suggested level: Primary, intermediate. Non-fiction.

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