Woman Suffrage in New Zealand.
Price 1d. The Woman's Press, Lincoln's Inn House, Kingway, W.C.
Woman Suffrage in New Zealand.
From time to time one is met by the statement that the enfranchisement of New Zealand women has had no effect except on Temperance Reform. When legislation affecting women and children is mentioned one finds that complete ignorance of its significance and purport prevails amongst otherwise well-informed people. One reason is that law-abiding persons and others whose interests are confined to their own pursuits and amusements do not take the trouble to investigate the conditions of life by which they are surrounded. Another reason is that the women's vote in New Zealand has never been a "sex vote," and was secured by the goodwill and co-operation of men and women without arousing any bitter sex antagonism.
Men of worth of both parties have always been ready and willing to develop the woman's point of view in legislation for the improvement of the social, economic, and industrial conditions of women and children. Any restrictions, and there are many, that have been imposed page 2 upon women's labour and hours of work have been in the interest and with the full concurrence of the workers themselves.
What Woman Suffrage has accomplished.
The following list of Acts will show that it is well for the home and the State to be governed by the united vote of men and women:—
An Act to admit women to practise at the Bar.
University Act, making absolute equality for men and women in education, scholarship and degrees.
Education Act—equality of both sexes. (Co-education which is universal in the Primary, Secondary, and University education, except in High Schools and Private Schools, has proved an unqualified success.)
Compulsory Attendance at Continuation Schools Act—equality for boys and girls.
Technical Schools Act—equality for both sexes.
Old Age Pensions.
Servants' Registry Office Act.—This Act, which makes it compulsory for Registry Offices to be licensed, ensures the safety of young girls, especially in connection with the white slave traffic. A writer in the Morning Post, in belittling this Act, is evidently unaware of its significance.
The Adoption of Children Act.—No premiums being allowed to adopting parents, and a magistrate's sanction being required, safeguards children from cruelty and neglect.
The Protection of Children Act.—Strict regulations and the inspection of boarded-out children prevents baby-farming.
The Destitute Persons Act makes the maintenance of relatives compulsory, and removes burdens from the Charitable Aid Boards and the ratepayers, besides increasing individual responsibility.
The Testator's Family Maintenance Act empowers page 3 the Supreme Court to cancel any will which does not make sufficient provision for the testator's wife, husband, or family.
The Succession Act provides a fair division of property to wife, husband, or family. There is no male entail, and landed as well as personal property can be equally divided.
The Inalienable Annuities Act ensures maintenance for defective and invalid children, and prevents their portion being seized for debt.
The Maintenance Act provides for the maintenance of wife and family, and makes provision for maintenance orders being enforced in adjacent colonies. It also makes provision for wages to be paid to prisoners for the maintenance of wife and family. A woman can sue for maintenance while living with her husband.
The Industrial Schools Act provides schools for criminal or neglected children, from which children are boarded out and their wages banked by the Government. Subsidies are paid to private bodies which maintain industrial schools and orphanages, but all such schools must be under Government inspection.
The Maternity Homes Act provides a fortnight's accommodation in a Maternity Home. Visiting midwives and maternity allowances to expectant mothers are provided for women in their own homes.
Subsidies are paid to the Salvation Army and other bodies for rescue and reformatory work.
A deserting husband or the putative father of an expected illegitimate child may be prevented from leaving the country.
The Criminal Amendment Act ensures adequate punishment for sexual offences—from five years' to life imprisonment, with floggings, is given according to the seriousness of the offence and the age of the victim. (The indeterminate sentence makes possible life imprisonment for moral imbeciles, degenerates of both sexes, and habitual criminals.)
The Prison Reform Act substitutes reformatory for punitive methods in dealing with offenders.page 4
The First Probation Offenders Act has been the means of saving many offenders from a criminal career.
The Indecent Publication Act is used to suppress indecent pictures and immoral literature and plays.
The Shop Assistants Act protects the health and wages, and regulates the hours of shop assistants.
The National Provident Fund Act provides for a contributory form of insurance.
The Juvenile Smoking Act prevents indulgence in cigarettes by boys under 16.
The Children's Court Act has been in operation for some years, and has been the means of much kindly and preventive work amongst juvenile offenders.
The Divorce Act makes the conditions for divorce equal for both sexes. In it there is a provision by which in the case of a husband suing for divorce, if it is proved that his unfaithfulness had driven the wife to a similar act, the divorce can be refused. In the case of the wife suing for divorce the same rule applies.
Women can get compensation for slander, under the Women's Slander Act, without having to prove that the slander has damaged their reputation.
The Municipal Elections Act provides that both husband and wife have a vote in the qualification of the one or other.
The Legitimation Act is similar to the Act in Scotland by which a child may be legitimised on the marriageof the parents and receive equal shares in property, equal rights and the status of a legitimate child. Provision is made for distribution of the estates of illegitimate children to the mother and her relatives to the exclusion of the father and his relatives. Illegitimate children can be registered in the name of the father. There are many other Acts which safeguard the lives and well-being of children.
The influence of the women's vote is seen and felt in all our legislation, although no attempt has even been made to arouse sex antagonism. The sense of justice which prevails, and which insists upon the punishment of the guilty party instead of his victim, in cases of seduction, has attained a high level in New Zealand.page 5
There are many cases in which the voice of honest indignation has been raised against the man whose neglect and selfishness have driven a shamed and hunted girl to desperation, which clearly prove that the tone of morality has been raised and the sense of justice aroused in men as well as women.
The Factory Laws, which provide equal pay for equal work for men and women, and ensure healthy conditions of work and a minimum wage of £1 5s. per week for women, which have made sweating impossible, show the benefits working women have received as the direct or indirect result of the power of the vote. I have the testimony of Mr. Tregear, who was head of the Government Labour Department for twenty years, to the effect that the present generation of women think that things were always as satisfactory, and have forgotten that their mothers had to work for so little wages and so long hours as their employers willed.
The Compulsory Military Training Rill, which has had the hearty support of the women of the Dominion, was welcomed as a protection to their homes. The provision in the Bill for the exclusion of alcohol from the military camps was insisted upon as a safeguard from temptation to their sons.
The Temperance regulations which have reduced crime and drunkenness in the districts in which they are enforced are an example of the voting woman's foresight and care for the future of her children and her home.
Amendments to the Pensions Act to add 50 per cent. to old age pensions, when the pensioners have children under 16 years of age, and to pay 7s. 6d. to 10s. per week to widows, irrespective of age, who have young children, have been passed, with the concurrence of the Opposition, who knew that they were acceptable to women voters, who had to be reckoned with at the General Election.
The real power of the woman's vote in New Zealand is not in opposition, but in its harmony and co-operation with the men's vote. A house divided against itself cannot stand, but the united and loyal comradeship of page 6 men and women have secured for New Zealand reforms in legislation which are making the Dominion a paradise for men as well as women and children.
Anti-Suffrage Argumenta Refuted.
The following statements have been made by "AntiSuffragists" without evidence or proof of their accuracy. I shall try to prove that they are false by quoting reliable statistics and admissions made by men who are opposed to the suffrage for reasons which it is unnecessary to summarise.
1.—Women do not want the vote.
The same statement was made in New Zealand and disproved at the first election in which women took part as electors. There were five petitions presented to Parliament at various times, containing in all 31,872 signatures, but 109,461, or 78.48 per cent., of adult women registered and 85.18 per cent, of these voted. There were three constituencies in which there was no contest.
2.—Women do not use the vote.
Several writers have stated that, "contrary to expectation," women do use the vote in the ratio of 78 to 80 of the men's vote. A writer in the Standard quoted the reduced percentage of 78.26 at the last election without stating that the men's vote had also decreased 2 per cent. The most convincing proof that women are more willing to vote than formerly is that 99.76 of the adult women registered in 1908 compared with 78.48 in 1893. The percentage of men who registered was only 99.54. Many women were unable to record their votes, but if it was understood that women have often to drive or ride for long distances over rough country roads, and have to take their children to the poll with them, the British voter would be more than astonished at their zeal. All women, married and single, have a vote, yet we find that the Englishman, who does not have to take his family to the page 7 poll or undergo any discomforts in recording his vote, shows less willingness to vote than the women of New Zealand.
3.—The Government is purely parochial, and has no real similarity to an Imperial Government.
We find the British House of Commons dealing with very domestic matters such as drainage, water supply, meals for children, education of infants, boot factories, shops, flannelette nightdresses for babies, overlaying of infants, maternity allowances, and a hundred and one small parochial matters. In New Zealand we have made greater strides than Britain in Imperialism. We have adopted Compulsory Military Training. Proposals for Imperial Federation, representation of the Dominions at Imperial Councils, and an Imperial Appeal Court were submitted to the Imperial Conference by delegates representing women voters. Our representatives were consulted in Defence and International Politics. In the name of their constituents (men and women), they demanded the right to be consulted on all Imperial questions. Their proposals were rejected by the "Imperial Government," which fails to realise, as Australia and New Zealand women do, the need of a United Empire. The Dominions have been before instead of behind Britain in the realisation of Empire. It seems as if women had by their influence developed an Imperial conscience as well as a moral and altruistic standard in domestic legislation.
4.—Home life has been ruined by the vote.
Home life and all the conditions for happiness have been improved by giving men and women an additional mutual interest and equal power in determining the future of their children.
5.—Women would neglect their homes.
This cry was very loud before we got the vote, but now we have the testimony of "antis" that no such calamity has befallen the homes. There are instances of women who spend their days playing golf and page 8 bridge (they do not take the trouble to vote), but there is no case on record in which the vote has been blamed for neglect of home.
6.—The vote would cause dissension in homes.
An "anti" visitor from New Zealand, in a letter to the Morning Post of August 4th, 1910, wrote: "It has brought about no family quarrels to speak of," and so he did not speak of one, much as he would have enjoyed the opportunity! No one has ever mentioned one such case during the eighteen years since the Franchise became law. There have been family quarrels caused by bad cooking, hats and frocks, education of children, religion, late hours at clubs, over-indulgence in champagne, and other matters of less significance, but no case in which either husband or wife has blamed the vote for unhappiness in their married life.
7.—Drunkenness has increased as a result of the temperance regulations secured by the women's vote.
The statement is one of the half-truths so dear to the "womanly anti-mind." The number of cases has increased, but the percentage has decreased. With an increase of 22,284 in population the number of cases is bound to increase. New arrivals, numbering 12,000 from the country that refuses to enfranchise its women, may account for the increase.
8.—There is more alcohol drunk in the no-licence districts than formerly, and secret drinking has become the rule.
Compared with other parts of the Dominion there was only a twelfth part of beer and a hundredth part of wine and spirits consumed in the no-licence area. There has been a reduction of 90 per cent. in drunkenness in no-licence districts and crime has almost disappeared. The testimony of judges, magistrates, doctors, clergy, mayors, and other leading citizens verifies this statement and court records prove it.
9.—New Zealand women are "Anti-Gambling."
(What a blessing they are "anti" something!! It ought to make an Imperial bond with the Anti-Suffra- page 9 gists.) They are not all "anti-gambling." Even if they were, does it denote a low standard of womanhood or constitute a danger to the State?
10.—Women are for Peace.
Perfectly true, and we are proud to follow the example of King Edward, the Peacemaker of Europe. "Women are for Peace" because they suffer more than men in time of war. Although they believe that all International disputes should be settled by arbitration, they answered the Empire's call by sending their sons to South Africa. They support compulsory military training because they believe that the best way to secure peace is to be ready for war. The fact that the only parts of the Empire which have recognised this are Australia and New Zealand, where women have the vote and where their vote would have counted as a factor in opposition, is a conclusive answer to the "anti" cry that giving votes to women would imperil the safety of the Empire. The votes of British women in the Dominions helped to save the Empire in time of peril, and we have no reason to believe that the women of the Motherland are less loyal or less patriotic than their sisters under the Southern Cross.
ii.—Crime has increased.
The ratio of crime has decreased, and the largest number of law-breakers in New Zealand are new arrivals from Britain, Of 3,159 convicted prisoners received in gaols in 1909, 1,502 were from the United Kingdom and 47 came from other British Possessions. In 1910 there were 1,538 from the United Kingdom and only 1,263 New Zealand born prisoners. The New Zealand born form 68 per cent, of the whole population, but only 35 per cent, of the total number in gaols. Our crime is traced to the country where women are voteless.
12.—Immorality and the illegitimate birth-rate have increased.
The moral tone of the community is on a much higher level than before the suffrage. The illegitimate birthrate (which was always low), has decreased, and the page 10 rate per thousand unmarried women has also decreased, although there is more freedom and independence amongst women, and marriage is contracted at a later age. It is only the "anti-obsession of sex "that could find any connection between illegitimacy and the vote. The "antis" are unable to look at any subject from a wide and rational point of view, and always bring sex and its vices or weaknesses into the discussion of matters which depend upon physical, mental, moral, and climatic conditions.
13.—The birth-rate has decreased.
The birth-rate decreased before the suffrage, and began to increase in 1899. In 1909 it was 27.29, compared with 24.4 in England and Wales in 1911. The increase in the number of children attending school was so great that thirty-five new public schools and one private school were opened in 1909. Our natural increase in population is 18.07 per 1000, compared with 12.13 in England and Wales.
14.—The rate of infant mortality is a disgrace to New Zealand.
The rate of infant mortality is the lowest in the world, and has decreased 30 per 1,000 since the suffrage. In 1909 the proportion of deaths of infants under one year was 61.6, as compared with 120 in voteless England and Wales. The deaths of children under 5 years of age, per cent, of mortality at all ages, was 23.55 m 1909. In Dunedin the low rate of 4.86 per cent, proves that in a short time we shall be able to save all babies except those suffering from "the sins of the fathers."
15.—Women will be treated with discourtesy at the polls.
During eighteen years New Zealand women have been treated with consideration, respect, and courtesy, not only at the polls, but at the declaration of the poll. No "anti" has ever ventured to state that the vote has unsexed women, or lowered the status of womanhood.
16.—Undesirable women will vote.
No doubt they will, but they will not be able to outvote the more "undesirable men" who have reduced page 11 them to the "undesirable" state. In New Zealand "undesirable women" are "not in evidence" since women got the vote.
17.—Labour legislation has ruined the country.
The Dominion is more prosperous and trade is brisker than it has ever been before. The total trade increased from £33,788,778 in 1908 to £35,336,.715 in 1990. The increase was still greater last year.
18.—Capital has been driven out of the country.
Capital is always going somewhere, according to the Opposition Party in every country. If capital remained in a stocking, it would denote stagnation of business. Unlucky people complain, but others have prospered.
19.—Education has made servants scarce.
The same complaint is heard in England. The remedy—and New Zealand women are urging its application—in more practical training and less education in useless subjects.
20.—Farmers have been ruined by grandmotherly legislation.
Farmers were never more prosperous. The New Zealand Farmers' Co-operative Association's turnover for 1910 was £2,961,688, an increase of £510,784 for the year. There has been an increase in occupied land, and a decrease of twelve only in the number of holdings of over 20,000 to 30,000 acres. There are eighty-four holdings of 50,000 acres and over. There has been a great increase in the number of small holdings, from 1 to 10,000 acres. There has also been an increase in the number of freeholders owning land, from small holdings up to 20,000 acres, but a decrease of holdings above that acreage. There is now only one estate of 150,000 acres. The decrease in large holdings is not altogether due to land taxes or lack of labour, but to subdivision on the death of the original owners. The Labour Laws have compelled farmers to provide decent accommodation, good food, and a living wage for their men. There are wealthy men, but no millionaires, in New Zealand, and no grinding poverty or sweated labour.page 12
21.—Women are women, and men are men.
In New Zealand, after eighteen years of equal suffrage, women are still women, and very womanly and domesticated women, and men are men, and very manly men.
The New Zealand Graphic quotes the Leader of the Opposition Farty as having said of New Zealand: "This country is a good country; everything is right in it save the Government"!! This bears out my contention that all the criticism hurled at New Zealand is only a matter of "ins" and "outs."
Another M.P. said that before women got the vote finance was the only matter of interest in the New Zealand Parliament, but that now the safeguarding of child-life, the interests of the home and the race, and every measure for the betterment of the State and the stability of the Empire was considered and adopted with enthusiasm.
An account of the election (of 1911) which has just taken place in New Zealand proves that the women are more interested in their electoral rights than at any previous time. The following quotations from a leading daily (The Evening Post, Wellington) will be of interest as showing the view of one on the spot who has every facility for obtaining reliable information:—
"It is fairly generally recognised that the women's vote has been a powerful factor in promoting temperance and social reform.", . . "Even if woman had not the time or the inclination [this is only a supposition, mind] to study politics, candidatorial man has to work on the basis that woman is carefully weighing his words." ..." Never for one momen does he forget the woman's vote." . . . "There is perhaps more evidence of activity among the women for this election than for any previous one." . . . "This power of woman at the ballot is to grow still more formidable."
Garden City Press Ltd., Lstchworth, Herts.