listen to the voices

On 19 September 1893, Aotearoa New Zealand became the first country in the world to achieve universal suffrage. But victory came only after a long fight and after 13 petitions carrying the signatures of some 32,000 women from all over New Zealand had been delivered to Parliament earlier in the year.  Activists like Femmina, Polly Plum, Meri Te Tai Mangakahia, Niniwa-te-rangi and Kate Sheppard had been agitating for equal rights, the right to vote, and moral reform for more than 20 years.
— Are We There Yet? auckland museum

This photo is epic.

Three years after the vote was won in 1893, a convention of representatives of 11 women’s groups from throughout New Zealand resolved itself into the National Council of Women (NCW).  When the leaders of New Zealand’s women’s movement gathered in Christchurch on 13 April 1896 it was a world first – a national meeting of women who could vote in parliamentary elections. They had exercised that right in the 1893 general election; now it was time to consider ways to bring about further equality between women and men. Key members pictured here include Wilhelmina Sherriff BainAnnie SchnackenbergKate SheppardMargaret Sievwright and Anna Stout. It really seriously has a serious number of iconic NZ women.  Google them.

How to find 32,000 women...

With a stroke of the pen, women in Aotearoa New Zealand would change their lives forever by signing the suffrage petition. they signed the petition's 546 sheets with a cross, a flourish or a light hand.  Kate Sheppard, leader of the suffrage campaign, sent the sheets all around the country. Most canvassers walked around neighbourhoods but some rode miles on bicycles. All together an estimated 32,000 signatures were collected. Kate pasted the returned sheets together into one long roll, winding it around a broom handle. When presented at Parliament, the scroll was rolled out along the central aisle of the debating chamber to its full 274 metres.

Why on earth isn't there a photo of that? #invisiblestories


Nga Taonga Sound & Vision houses our nation's sound recordings.  The number of sound recordings involving men's stories (and even men's versions of women's stories) far outweighs recordings of women.  See how film maker, Gaylene Preston, was inspired by both the suffragists and the sound files of interviews with women who voted at the 1893 election.

Check the suffrage petition. 

Did anyone with your family name sign the suffrage petition?  What about the family names of people in your class?  Remember because almost every woman took their husband's name on their wedding day, you might need to go back as much as 6 or 7 generations. Ask whanau to see if they can help you find the names.  

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Find a sound file

Nga Taonga Sound and Vision cares for an ever-growing collection of films, radio, television, sound recordings, props and documents spanning 120 years of Aotearoa’s sound and moving image history. RNZ also houses a huge range of sound archives and interviews which are easily searchable.


Watch Hot Words & Bold Retorts by Gaylene Preston

This short film sees  Lucy Lawless, Miranda Harcourt, Chelsie Preston-Crayford and Jean Sergeant, all of whom embody the voices of real women who either voted in the 1893 elections or were part of the campaign. "I'm not recreating them, I am contemporising them. I'm being quite outrageous in a historical sense".

great sound files to start you off

connie birchfield

Arabella manktelow

mabel howard


Dame miraka Szaszy

Kitty lovell-smith

NZ police women

Kate challis excelsa hooper


tell the story

Create your own tribute to a woman you admire.  Use the sound file you have discovered and create your own re-enactment on film. Edit together to create your own Hot Words and Bold Retorts in the style of the one and only Gaylene Preston.


Conduct a close reading of your sound file

Select a portion of the sound file that isn't too long.  Observe the length of each sound byte that Gaylene Preston used for her film Hot Words and Bold Retorts and find phrases within your sound recording that are of a similar length.  Create a script for yourself. Check the script multiple times and mark it with symbols to remind you to add a mannerism or change the shape of your mouth to achieve a more effective lip sync.


Practice mimicking the movements and intonation required to become your character

To make your performance convincing you'll need to experiment with movements, intonation and body language.  Think - does the woman speaking in your sound file have any quirks to the way she says her words?  Any strange mannerisms in her speech? Does she have a different accent?  How does she pronounce her vowels? Put on earphones and look in the mirror.  Lip sync the words you hear to the mirror - accomodate as many quirks of speech and facial movements as you can while staying "believable".  It's harder than it looks.


Perform your piece for the camera.  Record and share.

Gaylene Preston said of her film "I didn't cast people who looked like the original women, as it clearly isn't them. It's us. We embody those voices. I'm not recreating them, I am contemporising them. I'm being quite outrageous in a historical sense." You need to do the same with your performance.  You don't need to look anything like the woman whose voice you are bringing to life. In fact the less you look like her the better.  Focus achieving the closest lip-sync you can.