2023 was a special year for wāhine women and kōtiro girls in Aotearoa New Zealand as we marked the 130th anniversary of the enduring legacy of women's suffrage.

When the Electoral Act was signed into law on 19 September 1893, Aotearoa New Zealand became the first self-governing country to enshrine in law the right of women to vote in parliamentary elections. 

Each year on 19 September in New Zealand, we mark Suffrage Day to celebrate and commemorate this milestone, its important legacy, and acknowledge the contributions of the suffragists who fought for this right and the betterment of our society.

A symbol for Suffrage 130

Suffragists gave white camellias to their supporters to wear in Parliament during the passing of the Electoral Act 1893. Since then, the flower has become the symbol of New Zealand women’s suffrage movement. 

Artist Vanessa Smith has developed a beautiful symbol that represents the importance and significance of this milestone. There are 130 petals in this camellia — one for each year — representing a moment of gratitude for the suffragists and wāhine across Aotearoa who fought tirelessly for this right. It's a tribute to all women who have contributed to Aotearoa’s progress for women’s rights, past and present. Each element is hand-drawn, representing the raw, emotionally charged spirit of the movement that still resonates 130 years later.

This symbol isn't about perfection; it's about humanity, relatability, and progress. Just like the journey towards equality, it's uniquely imperfect, yet incredibly powerful.

Read more about the concept of this design on Vanessa’s website.

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Note: Please help us maintain the mana and integrity of this design—our camellia is only to be used on Manatū Wāhine official content. You are welcome to share our content on social media to celebrate suffrage 130—we love to see how you are commemorating!


Suffrage 130 was commemorated across the motu! Thank you to all of the organisations and individuals who participated in events to commemorate this milestone. 

Events included:

  • Art exhibitions and installations in Auckland and Christchurch
  • Museum tours in Whanganui and Wellington
  • Kōrero and kai in Auckland, Lower Hutt, and Timaru

We kicked off our Suffrage 130 commemorations on 6 June with an inspiring panel discussion with the National Library of New Zealand: Leadership and Legacy: Celebrating Women Leaders in Aotearoa. 

Watch the full panel discussion

On Suffrage Day, 19 September 2023, we held another event with the National Library of New Zealand: Across the generations: an evening to commemorate 130 years of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa New Zealand.

This event featured some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s leading wāhine historians, storytellers, and changemakers like Dame Gaylene Preston, Nina Nawalowalo, Professor Barbara Brookes, Julia Whaipooti, Alyce Lysaght, Hope Cotton, Helene Leaf, and Kate Hursthouse and Karen Brook. 

Watch the Suffrage 130 event

Women's Suffrage Resources

There are a range of resources and archival material that you can view on Women’s Suffrage. 

National Library of New Zealand – He Tohu exhibition: The suffrage petition is now preserved at the National Library's He Tohu exhibition.

NZHistory – Women and the vote: Information on the history of the New Zealand suffrage campaign and petition. 

NZHistory - suffrage petition: A database of names that signed the petition and you can search for your relatives on the petition.

NZ On Screen’s ‘Pioneering Women’ collection: Watch a range of films, tv series, documentaries, and interviews that celebrate women in New Zealand, including Suffrage Centennial content form 1993/1994. 

Te Ara – Differences and Inequality section: Find information on the history of the women’s movement in New Zealand, traditional gender roles in New Zealand society, and wāhine Māori throughout history.