1893 - the year women gained the vote

I was walking along the Grand Union Canal tow-path and discovered Cowley Lock, which bears a plaque dated 1893, and I started wondering about what might have been happening in the world during that year.

Quite a lot, it seems, according to Wikipedia. Among these many events were:

  • The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland was formed
  • The 1893 crash on the New York Stock exchange started a depression
  • The United States Supreme Court declared the tomato to be a vegetable
  • In India Ghandi committed his first act of civil disobedience
  • Gold was discovered in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
  • Antonin Dvorak's Symphony No 9 premièred at Carnegie Hall, New York City
  • Indian Guru, Paramahansa Yogananda was born
  • Chinese leader, Mao Zedung was born

But when Cowley Lock, which was built in 1794 during the Industrial Revolution, was being upgraded nearly 100 years later, women gained the vote for the first time in the world; New Zealand being the first country to grant women this right.

This got me wondering again. How did this come about? What was so special about New Zealand that caused this momentous event? Why New Zealand, which was part of the British Empire, and not England?

In New Zealand, women like Kate Sheppard and Mary Ann Muller and the New Zealand branch of the Women's Christian Temperance Union campaigned for nearly two decades to secure this right. Many attempts were made by Parliament to pass a bill to secure women the vote and in 1893 the only thing that actually swung the bill in favour was a backfired attempt to prevent the bill being passed in the Upper House.

Apparently Premier Richard Seddon ordered a Liberal Party councillor to change his vote. His interference so upset two other councillors that they changed their vote for the bill, allowing the bill to be passed by 20 votes to 18. Make of that what you will but this event was the beginning of enormous change for the good of women worldwide.

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