Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Women's Suffrage Petition of 1893

It is International Women's Day today. So what better time to discover that one of your own ancestors was a suffragette? Searching the database of the 1893 suffrage petition on the NZ History website, I came across Fanny M. Hannan of Seaward Bush, near Invercargill. Fanny is my great-grandmother. She was one of more than 25,000 signatories to the petition, which, when stitched together, was more than 270 metres in length.

First page of the 1893 Suffrage Petition, http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/media/photo/suffrage-petition-1893
After a long struggle, the suffragettes finally achieved their goal, when on 19 September 1893 a new Electoral Act was signed into law, making New Zealand the first country in the world where women gained the right to vote.

As for Fanny, she lived long enough to see the First Labour Government come to power in 1935, passing away in 1941, as New Zealand fought the Second World War. And it seems Fanny was not the only member of her family to sign the petition in 1893. Fanny's maiden name was Lawrence, and the signature immediately beneath hers is that of Mary Lawrence. I am guessing this was probably an unmarried sister. Time to do some some more family history research.

You can search for your own ancestors on the suffrage petition database here.

[Since first posting the above, a lively and fascinating discussion on Twitter has confirmed that I should have used the term 'suffragist' rather than 'suffragette'. In the interests of historical authenticity, I decided to allow the original wording to stand. Regardless of the correct terminology, it is nice to have an ancestor who stood on the right side of history.]

4 comments:

  1. It's good that New Zealand was able to preserve this valuable piece of history! It must have felt amazing if one of your ancestors was on that list. Heroes, in their own right, in my book. Now I'm prompted by this post to research more about my family history too! Awesome post!

    Christian Pearson @ League of Women Voters

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  2. Hello Cousin!! Fanny was also my great grandmother!! Maybe great great, it all gets mixed up in my head. Any chance you managed to get any info on that Lawrence line? They seem to be very elusive! I do have death certificate for Fanny with helpful names but still feel lost.

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    1. Hi Tracey

      Great to hear from you. Yes, I do have information on the Lawrence family, dating back to the 1700s. If you use the contact form on the blog and send me a message so that I have your email address I will send what I have to you.

      Vincent

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  3. Fanny is my great great grandmother- hello cousin! Thanks for writing this piece of NZ history.

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