Explore women's suffrage with your class

Students visiting the new He Tohu exhibition at the National Library in Wellington love seeing the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition up close. For classes not planning to visit the exhibition this year, He Tohu online resources make it easy to explore women's suffrage from anywhere.

Teacher and student using the He Tohu Suffrage Petition interactive displayUsing the Suffrage Petition interactive display, Mark Beatty. CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ

A monster effort

The 1893 Women's Suffrage Petition was an extraordinary feat of organisation by Kate Sheppard and other campaigners for women's rights. It contains 25,519 signatures gathered from around the country and is an impressive 274 metres long. Kate Sheppard called it 'the monster'. 12 smaller petitions sent to Wellington at the same time have since gone missing but combined, they represented nearly a quarter of the adult population of New Zealand at the time.

Why not take the initiative?

He Tohu learning programmes at the library invite students to consider how far we have come in terms of obtaining equality for women, and how far we still have to go.

In 1869, feminist Mary Mueller asked, "The change is coming, but why is New Zealand only to follow? Why not take the initiative?"

This question invites students to consider what they would like New Zealand to take a lead in today and what they can do to support this.

Explore gender equality with your class

The learning pages on the He Tohu website include a social inquiry exemplar related to the gender pay gap. The social inquiry includes suggestions for an integrated cross-curricular approach, including mathematical activities and visual-thinking strategies. Although the inquiries are based on achievement objectives at levels 4 and 5 of the curriculum, much of the content could be adapted for use at other levels.

Social inquiry resources — gender equality

Explore He Tohu's women’s suffrage online resources

A number of He Tohu resources support teachers to explore women’s suffrage with their classes. Animations from the map table in the exhibition have been added to the He Tohu YouTube channel, including an animation that shows the story of the 1893 petition.

Watch the Women's Suffrage Petition animation on YouTube

A petition: Women’s Suffrage Petition

For older students, the YouTube channel includes videos that showcase a range of perspectives on women’s rights:

He Tohu playlists on YouTube

Explore Topic Explorer and Many Answers digital resources

Other relevant online resources suitable for primary to secondary students include:

Get organised!

Kate Sheppard began organising the 1893 petition at the end of 1892, directly after an earlier petition had failed to obtain the right to vote for women. Part of the plan was to get the petition pages out to people before Christmas so that people could take them to their holiday destinations. 

How about doing some brainstorming with your students about ways that they can celebrate the efforts and achievements of New Zealand women, both this year and in 2018?

Key dates are:

  • 19 September — anniversary of when all New Zealand women over the age of 21 were granted the right to vote
  • 28 November — anniversary of when New Zealand women voted for the first time.

See the real deal

Bringing your class to Wellington? Book a visit to He Tohu to see the petition up close.

Email bookings@hetohu.nz.

By Kate Potter

Kate is a Learning Programmes Specialist with Schools and Public Programmes.

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