Marlborough Women and the Petition


On 19 September 1893, after submitting a petition with nearly 32,000 signatures, New Zealand became the first self-governing country to grant women the vote. In most other democracies – including Britain and the United States – women did not get that right until after the First World War. New Zealand women voted for the first time in a general election on 28 November 1893.

Pelorus Guardian and MinersAdvocate 6 October 1893

Pelorus Guardian and Miners Advocate 6 October 1893

In 1892 there were 13,325 people in Marlborough of whom 5,954 were female (including children). 204 women from Marlborough signed the petition.
Despite the short timeframe for voter registration, 109,461 women – about 84% of the adult female population – enrolled to vote in the election. On polling day 90,290 of them cast their votes, a turnout of 82%.

Mary Ann Muller

Mary Ann Muller. Marlborough Museum and Archives

Inspired by the writings of Marlborough woman, Mary Ann Muller and suffragette leaders such as Kate Sheppard, the women of Marlborough did their part in changing the history of New Zealand.

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.1

The stories of the Marlborough women who signed the Woman's suffrage petition in 1893 have been researched and recorded, and are published on the Prow:


Sources used in this story

  1. The female franchise (1893, December 5) Pelorus Guardian and Miners' Advocate, 5 December 1893

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Further sources - Marlborough Women and the Petition


  • Devaliant, J. (1992, pp.11-12). Kate Sheppard: the fight for women’s votes in New Zealand, Auckland, N.Z.: Penguin.
  • Coney, S (1993). Standing in the sunshine: a history of New Zealand women since they won the vote. Wellington, N.Z.: Penguin.
  • The suffragists, women who worked for the vote: essays from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Wellington, N.Z.: Bridget Williams Books and the Department of Internal Affairs.
  • Grimshaw, P. (1972) Women’s suffrage in New Zealand. Auckland, N.Z.: Auckland University Press.
  • Harper, B. (1980), Petticoat Pioneers, South Island Women of the Colonial Era, Book 3.  Wellington, N.Z.: A.H. & A.W. Reed.
  • Muller, M. A., & Young Women's Christian Association. (1990). YWCA New Zealand 1990 official project. Auckland, N.Z.: Auckland Young Women's Christian Association.
  • Muller, Mary Ann (1878). An appeal to the men of New Zealand. Wellington, N.Z.: New Zealand Mail
  • Ross, Megan. (2018) The Big Book of Marlborough Women. Blenheim, NZ : Marlborough Museum Archives & Marlborough Heritage Trust
  • Voller, L. C. (1982). Sentinel at the gates, Nelson College for Girls 1883-1983 Nelson N.Z.: Nelson College for Girls Old Girls Association, pp. 14-16, 20-33

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