Suffrage 125 Celebrated

Suffrage 125 was celebrated at Rotorua Library Te Aka Mauri with a Living Books discussion and lunch.


We felt privileged to be a part of the Suffrage 125: Living Books and Lunch event on Saturday 15 September which was a collaborative event run by Multicultural Rotorua and Rotorua Library. Guests enjoyed a shared lunch of dishes from around the world before the Living Books discussion, and were also treated to a slice of cake which was made and specially decorated for the occasion by Multicultural Rotorua members Lily Joy Al Omari and Faustinah Ndlovu.

Dr Margriet Theron did a great job of facilitating the Living Book style presentation and everyone in the audience got involved asking questions. We could have all listened for far longer to the interesting and inspiring stories of the four women who were Living Books. Our special thanks go to Alexis LewGor, Dr. Sandra Velarde, Tania Te Whenua and Faustinah Ndlovu for sharing their time and insights.

Thanks also to Geyser Community Foundation for help funding this event and to our Discovery Space Programmes Partner the Wright Family Foundation.


Suffrage and Symbolism

Wednesday 19 September 2018 marks the 125th Anniversary of Women's Suffrage in New Zealand. On this day in 1893, the Electoral Act 1893 was passed which gave all New Zealand women the right to vote. New Zealand was the first self-governing country in the world where women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

Many of the guests at our Living Book event wore purple and decorations and even the cake paid tribute to this significant colour.

Purple was one of three colours chosen to represent the suffrage cause in Britain in 1908 (Te Papa Blog: The history of purple, from ancient Rome to women’s rights).

A later description in The Suffragist, Vol. 1 No. 4, published on December 6, 1913, explains “Purple is the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to a cause. White, the emblem of purity, symbolizes the quality of our purpose; and gold, the color of light and life, is as the torch that guides our purpose, pure and unswerving.” (Recollections blog: The Colors of Women’s Suffrage)

Event facilitator, Dr. Margriet Theron wore her New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal which included these three colours. The medal was awarded to 500 women and men who had, by their virtues and talents, made a recognised contribution to the rights of women in New Zealand, or to women's issues in New Zealand, or to both. The reverse of the medal has a fern frond and a sprig of camellia foliage with a single bloom, stems crossed in the base and tied with a bow.

Some members of the audience also wore a white camellia and in closing the event, Dr Margriet Theron presented Rotorua Library Te Aka Mauri with a white camellia for display throughout the week. 

The white camellia flower is a symbol of the women's suffrage movement. In 1893 the suffragists presented a white camellia flower to those members of the House of Representatives who had voted in favour of women gaining the vote (Jock Phillips, 'Anniversaries - Anniversaries since 1990', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand).


The white camellia is on display on the First Floor of Rotorua Library Te Aka Mauri with a selection of recommended reads. 


Recommended Reads


Women's suffrage petition

Behind every signature on the Women's suffrage petition is a person and a story. Did any of your ancestors sign the 1893 petition? You can search the Women's suffrage petition database and add details to stories of those you know.

Page reviewed: 10 Dec 2018 3:33pm