Women in New Zealand politics
New Zealand is a monarchy and democratic society, with the Queen of England as head of state and the parliament composed of political parties with the Governor-general of New Zealand as the Queen’s representative. In 1893, the New Zealand government gave women the right to vote and was the first country to do so, setting a strong example for the rest of the world. Since then, several women have not only voted but have also risen to various positions in politics and the Parliament throughout history, including some of the women below:
Elizabeth McCombs: As a member of New Zealand’s labor party, she campaigned for women in two different and unsuccessful attempts to run for Parliament, however, she won the by-election when her husband James died, leaving his own parliament seat open. Winning the seat with over 2600 votes, she held the position for two years before her own death. Trying to keep women’s issues at the forefront of her campaigns, she was stymied by opposition to the labor party from the other groups in parliament but was still the catalyst for great change.
Mabel Howard: This woman was the first Cabinet minister for New Zealand. She was elected to Parliament in 1943, serving various positions, until she was appointed the Child welfare Minister in 1947. She focused her policies on women and children, along with those who were sick and in poverty. She was later re-elected in 1963 and 1966, continuing to promote her policies despite opposition to her party until 1969, where she was forced to retire because she’d reached the mandatory age. She died in 1972 from poor health, her passion for the causes she cared for living on past her.
Jacinda Ardern: The youngest woman to hold office in New Zealand’s parliament at 37 years old, she is the 3rd woman leader for New Zealand, and speaks for an active government that focuses on mental health issues and women’s rights. A sufferer of anxiety that can be crippling, she was pushed into the spotlight when the labor party’s leader stepped down and she was elected to serve in his place. Despite the obstacles in her way, she has promoted various causes and the change in the candidacy for the Labour party helped to make the election one of the hardest fought in New Zealand’s history.
The women who served in New Zealand’s parliament and other positions, changed the country’s political landscape and all left their marks on the country and the government, and with a current woman prime minister leading the country, it will be interesting to see what her mark on New Zealand will be.