Women's suffrage resources for Suffrage Day and beyond

September 19 is an important date in New Zealand history, particularly for women.

On this day in 1893, New Zealand led the way as the first self-governing country in the world to grant women the right to vote — all women! The only main exceptions in New Zealand were foreigners, and those incarcerated in prison or in an asylum (NZHistory: Women's suffrage milestones).

Six weeks later, on November 28, approximately 84% of eligible women had enrolled to vote!

This blog post has some quality resources to help you mark NZ's Suffrage Day with your students and to explore concepts related to the Women's Suffrage Petition throughout the year.

2 women, one dressed as a suffragette, wearing sashes with words 'Votes for women' and holding a banner 'Deeds not words'
March4Women 2018 – 06 by Gary Knight. Flickr. Public domain.

Explore He Tohu's and NZHistory's online resources

Start by finding out about Kate Sheppard and the Petition

To find out about Kate Sheppard, one of the key players and New Zealand’s best-known suffragist, visit the He Tohu web page A petition: Women’s Suffrage Petition. Here you will find short animations, in both te reo and English, telling just part of the Women’s Suffrage Petition story to capture student interest. The page also has a number of other great links.

The He Tohu website Kōrero page has videos of people talking about issues related to women's suffrage and women's rights. You can display videos only relating to one of the He Tohu documents by using the page's filter tool.

Have a look at He Tohu's learning activities

There are several ways to inspire and inform your students and capture their interest to delve deeper into women's suffrage and the role New Zealand played in this important movement. Visit our new He Tohu Learning activities section for activities to use in class. Specifically, relevant to women’s suffrage are:

There are more activities to come, so check back on this section when your students are studying concepts related to the Suffrage Petition (or to the other 2 He Tohu documents).

Visit He Tohu on YouTube

The He Tohu YouTube channel has a number of videos relating to the He Tohu exhibition, including women’s suffrage. You can also follow the journey of the last monster petition as it travelled around New Zealand in 1893.

Look at NZHistory's resources too

Suffrage 125 and Women and the vote are two really fabulous sections of information to investigate further into this topic.

In particular, look at Page 6 – Women's suffrage petition — the digitised, searchable database of the main suffrage petition. A great activity for students is to search for family members that signed the petition, or for those students who are new to New Zealand, to find a connection with someone who maybe lived in their house, street, or suburb.

Explore Services to Schools' teaching and learning resources

Quick links to Topic Explorer, the curiosity cards, and many other fabulous resources can be found in our Teaching and learning resources.

Curiosity cards

Curiosity cards are a great way to spark student inquiry about Aotearoa New Zealand’s rich and diverse heritage. These cards have been created in partnership with National Library and the Ministry of Education as a way for teachers to initiate discussion and activities around He Whakaputanga, Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the Treaty of Waitangi, Tuia — Encounters 250, and of course the Women’s Suffrage Petition.

The digital version of these cards allows teachers to download and print multiple copies to use with students, whilst the ‘find out more’ link provides further context and information about each card. Cards relating to women's suffrage include:

Check out the new video that has just been released entitled How is it activism to ride a bicycle? with Indira Neville discussing possible activities relating to ‘The bicycle and women’s suffrage’ card.

Women's Suffrage Centenary Memorial
Women's Suffrage Centenary Memorial, with the mural of the women on bikes (near the top of the photo) as discussed in the 'How is it activism to ride a bicycle?' video.

Topic Explorer

For quality, curated resources direct your students initially to Topic Explorer. Our reference librarians evaluate resources and create sets of topics to support and inspire inquiry from several websites, including Archives New Zealand, Radio New Zealand, NZHistory, Te Papa, and DigitalNZ.

Visit the He Tohu exhibition or education space

If you get the opportunity, we highly recommend popping into the He Tohu exhibition at the National Library in Wellington to get 'up-close-and-personal' with the documents. This is a permanent exhibition where three of our key cultural and heritage taonga are housed in an incredible waka huia (treasure box).

If you are a school based in, or visiting, Auckland, the He Tohu Tāmaki education space offers a chance for students and teachers to engage with a variety of resources and activities, including a virtual reality tour of the document room in Wellington.

Enjoy learning about NZ's women's suffrage

Enjoy learning more about how New Zealand women led the fight for women’s suffrage and equality more than 125 years ago!

By Sandi Faulconbridge

Sandi is a Facilitator (National Capability) with Services to Schools in Auckland.

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