Tomorrow, for the first time in my twenty-and-a-bit years of living, I vote. The prospect of being old enough and responsible enough to have a say (however insignificant) in the running of a country is enough to make me want to climb under the bedcovers and not come out for a very long time. Or something. Then there is the whole sticky mess of deciding who to vote for. Which only seems to become more and more sticky the more informed you become.
I shouldn’t be moaning, though, because I have the right to vote. Which is a pretty exciting thing, really! I am lucky enough to live at a time in history, and a place in the world where everyone over the age of eighteen has the right to vote.
This is cool, when you think about it. It was only 118 years ago that New Zealand first gave women the right to vote. New Zealand being the first country in the world to give women that right. Kate Sheppard was the leader of the New Zealand women’s suffrage movement, who in 1891, 1892 and 1893 compiled a series of massive petitions calling on Parliament to grant the vote to women. On the first two occasions, though, “opponents sabotaged the legislation in the more conservative upper house, the Legislative Council, by adding devious amendments.” But on 8 September 1893 the bill was passed by 20 votes to 18, allowing all women to vote. It also turned out that the anti-suffragettes got a few things wrong.
Suffrage opponents had warned that delicate ‘lady voters’ would be jostled and harassed in polling booths by ‘boorish and half-drunken men’, but in fact the 1893 election was described as the ‘best-conducted and most orderly’ ever held. According to a Christchurch newspaper, the streets ‘resembled a gay garden party’ – ‘the pretty dresses of the ladies and their smiling faces lighted up the polling booths most wonderfully’.
Nowadays Sheppard’s contribution to New Zealand’s history has been acknowledged on the $10 note.
Kate Sheppard and her lot led the way for suffragettes the world over. Like Susan B. Anthony. Who was pretty Bitchin’, apparently (Just watch me segue).
(Hat-tip to Mindy for the bitchin’ vid.)
The most recent state to give women the vote was Saudi Arabia. From what I can find this seems to be the last place in the world to do so.
So, I’m pretty lucky with this whole voting thing all-in-all. Even if I do take it for granted.