We the undersigned : an analysis of signatories to the 1893 women's suffrage petition from southern Dunedin
This thesis examines the impact of the 1893 Women's Suffrage Petition on a particular community in New Zealand. The weight of political, religious and socioeconomic influences in the milieu of communities in southern Dunedin are analysed against the demographic trends revealed by those women who signed the 1893 petition and who went on to register for the 1893 General Election. New Zealand led the world in extending the franchise to its female citizens, a right secured after a lengthy campaign and the presentation of three national petitions. The final petition, presented to Parliament on 28 July 1893, with the signatures of approximately 31,871 affixed, provides the most comprehensive list of female supporters of ,women's suffrage in this country. Narrowing the focus to a select population of women signatories provides a unique opportunity to study the political motivations of a representative group of women in nineteenth century New Zealand. Historical research in this area has tended to concentrate on the progression of the women's suffrage movement, the aspirations of women who led the can1paign, and the national significance of the eventual victory. To date, there has been no substantive work on the lives of the women who supported the movement, the ordinary women of New Zealand. This thesis presents the petition itself as a largely unexplored resource for suffrage history. By linking signatories to several genealogical sources it explores the motives which attracted some women to support the petition and considers the factors which halted the affirmation of others. It also considers the relationship between the petition and the 1893 General Election through the process of identifying the women who signed the petition and went on to register to vote, and those who did not. It will be argued that current theories on women's suffrage in New Zealand have focused too intently on the national campaign - based on the assumption that support generated at a national level was duplicated locally. Further, it is proposed that any explanation for women's suffrage in New Zealand must also incorporate an understanding of the society from which it originated. In late nineteenth century New Zealand, the campaign emerged from a society actively questioning the course of its moral and political future. It will be seen that amongst the population of southern Dunedin, a strong note of response to new aspirations is sounded by those women from skilled working-class families.
Advisor: Olssen, Erik; Brookes, Barbara
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: History
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis