This coming Sunday 19 September marks the 128th anniversary of the colonial governor Lord Glasgow’s signing into law the Electoral Act of 1893 that finally gave all New Zealand women over 21 years of age the right to vote in their parliamentary elections. With the passage of this legislation, the country became the very first democracy in the world to provide for women’s suffrage.
The centenary celebrations of Women's Suffrage 1893-1993 were accompanied in Lyttelton by a Bridle Path mural, proposed by the artists Ronnie and Sarah Kelly, depicting pioneer women climbing the Bridle Path. Selected by the Lyttelton Harbour Basin Suffrage Committee, their completed work can still be seen on the wall that runs from the start of Bridle Path Road, at the western end of London Street, to the base of Ticehurst Road. Featured in the Christchurch Star on 4 September 1993, the artists are shown in front of a section of the 42 metre long mural with the Museum’s own Ann Jolliffe and Wendy McKay!
These centenary celebrations were included in the Museum contribution to the 2015 exhibition, Through the Glass Ceiling, at the Tin Palace in Lyttelton. The exhibition featured a sculpture of New Zealand’s renowned suffragist Kate Sheppard alongside portraits by Julia Holden depicting influential local women from the 18th to the 21st centuries. These groundbreakers included Elizabeth McCombs, the first woman elected to the New Zealand Parliament as the MP for Lyttelton in 1933 on the 40th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage!