Post that vote and celebrate

01:14, Sep 19 2013
Pat Veltkamp Smith
Columnist Pat Veltkamp Smith was Southland Times women's editor until 1997 and is a former president of the Southland Justices of the Peace Association.

Hard to believe but it is now 120 years since New Zealand women won the vote, the first in the world to do so, and we are still celebrating.

In a way it is like marking the day slavery was abolished, remembering a time when things were wrong and remembering how that wrong was righted.

What we are recalling, of course, is the foresight and courage of those who led these campaigns and suffered the abuse and ignominy that went along with their efforts.

In working towards their enfranchisement, Kate Sheppard wanted women to have a vote to control the unbridled sale and consumption of liquor in the New Zealand of the late 1880s.

These were tough times for women with "the demon drink" a social scourge, families left penniless when the provider could drink the lot on pay day.

The very first meeting of the NZ Women's Christian Temperance Union - NZWCTU - was held in Invercargill, where it attracted the term "wowsers".


But they were not that.

Temperance covered abstinence for those who could and cautious moderation for everyone else.

From the reasonableness of this stance came in time our own Invercargill Licensing Trust with its provision of hospitality as well as distribution of funds to enable the city's amenities to develop and grow.

This morning, as the Southland National Council of women celebrates with senior schoolgirls its guests and other women made welcome too, it does so in ILT premises, the generous support of the trust enabling its Top of the Kelvin function to be held.

So one hand washes the other and the result is good. But for franchise to be effective everyone with a vote should exercise it.

Postal voting makes it too easy to put it to one side with bills to be paid, waiting for a reminder.

There is no reminder but the memory of those women six generations back in 1893 who made September 19 a day to celebrate.

The Southland Times