On 13th April 1896, at a Christchurch hosted women’s convention where eleven groups were represented, the ‘National Council of Women’ was founded (pictured). Well known suffragette Kate Sheppard was elected as its first President. Their main aim was to lobby for women’s rights and “…unite organised societies of women for mutual counsel and cooperation, and all make for the good of humanity…”
As well as pushing forward for women to receive equal pay, equal rights in marriage and divorce, they also lobbied for a better general society – promoting the need for the old age pension, shorter working days, better working environment, penal reform and the abolition of capital punishment -among many other projects. They were also firm supporters of the temperance movement.
After a recess period of twelve years, new life and concerns brought the council back together with the increase of moral decline and venereal diseases in 1918. The world had certainly changed since the organisation’s formation. With more women in the work force, obtaining higher education, fewer marriages and high death rates in childbirth, there was plenty of support needed.
Today, the N.C.W.N.Z is an umbrella organisation for 280 other lobbying groups. Now housed in Wellington, they have twenty one branches nationwide and with volunteer help, they continue the work they started 119 years ago (2015).