Story: Women’s movement

1893 suffrage petition

Long roll of paper with writing on it enclosed in a glass case.

From the 1880s onwards women (and sometimes men) signed petitions asking that women be allowed to vote. A century later, only two that Parliament received still survived. The largest of these is the 1893 petition, which contains the signatures of ‘Mary J. Carpenter and 25,519 others’. The sheets were circulated throughout New Zealand and then returned to Christchurch. Kate Sheppard then pasted each of the petition sheets together.

In 2017 the petition was restored and put on public display in the He Tohu exhibition in the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa building in Wellington, as one of New Zealand’s foundational documents. It is approximately 274 metres long and weighs more than 7kg. The inks used for the signatures are prone to fading so to ensure each page is not subject to light for too long, the exhibition display case has been specially designed so that the petition can be rolled by curators, so that a new page can be displayed every few months. A digitised version of the 1893 petition is available to allow people to search to see if their ancestors signed the petition.

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Andy Spain
by Andy Spain

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How to cite this page:

Megan Cook, 'Women’s movement - Women’s Christian Temperance Union', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 June 2024)

Story by Megan Cook, published 5 May 2011