Suffrage 125 at Te Papa

International Women’s Day (8 March) marks the launch of the year-long Suffrage 125 commemorations. With the Electoral Act passed in 1893, 125 years ago, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world to give women the right to vote in general elections.

Te Papa has a diverse range of projects and events planned to mark this important year.

Bronwyn Labrum, Te Papa’s Head of New Zealand and Pacific Cultures says, ”Suffrage 125 is a great opportunity for New Zealanders to explore and discuss the diversity of women’s experiences as they have progressed positive change for themselves, their whānau, communities and Aotearoa New Zealand.”

First off, Te Papa will host the flagship event inaugurating the anniversary: ‘Whakatū wahinē – forging our future, heralding our past’ on International Women’s Day. For this panel discussion, the Ministry for Women, New Zealand in partnership with Te Papa has convened a panel of amazing and inspirational women who have made significant contributions to furthering the rights of women and girls. Panellist include: Minister for Women, Hon Julie Anne Genter MP; Victoria University of Wellington historian Professor Charlotte Macdonald; Board chair and former CEO Mele Wendt, National Council of Women of New Zealand President Vanisa Dhiru and Georgina Beyer, the world's first transgender woman elected to Parliament.

Later in the year, two major projects will be launched to coincide with the actual anniversary of the passage of the Electoral Act that enfranchised women. The first is a book of essays, Women Now: The Legacy of Women’s Suffrage, edited by Te Papa’s Head of New Zealand and Pacific Cultures Dr Bronwyn Labrum, and published by Te Papa Press. In this collection, twelve authors respond to twelve objects in Te Papa’s collections in ways that will prompt readers to reflect on and rethink their ideas about women’s rights and where we are going 125 years on from that historic moment.

These objects will also feature in an exhibition that opens in September. They will join the results of a special collecting project already underway, which is aiming to source contemporary and historic objects for Te Papa that relate to women’s rights.

“Between now and September, Te Papa’s role in Suffrage 125 will be as a forum for conversations, in the museum and through other channels, generated by this significant moment in time,” says Dr Labrum.


Contact: Andrea Tandy, Senior Communications Advisor, 029 601 0010,

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Image credit and caption: Frances Parker’s Women's Social and Political Union Medal for Valour, 1912, England, by Toye & Co. Purchased 2016. CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Te Papa (GH024772)