The Ashburton Guardian, COUNTY AGRICULTURAL & SPORTING RECORDER THURSDAY, JULY 15, 1880.
The public advocates of woman’s rights in New Zealand are not many. In Parliament they seem to have been reduced to one solitary individual, and Dr. Wallis, the member for Auckland City West, is permitted to stand alone as the champion of the ladies in their claim for electoral rights. He has placed the following before the House in the Women’s Franchise Bill :
“Every woman of the age of twenty-one years or upwards, having of her own right, and to her separate use, a freehold estate in possession, situate within an electoral district, of the value of twenty-five pounds, whether subject to incumbrances or not, and of or to which she has been seized for at least six calendar months next before the registration of her vote, is entitled to be registered as an elector, and to vote at an election of members for such district for the House of Representatives. But no woman shall be entitled to be registered as an elector, or to vote at any such election, in respect of any other qualification. ZSio woman, although registered as an elector under this Act, shall be qualified to be elected a member of the Blouse of Representatives for any electoral district.”
A perusal of this measure will show that it grants to females no more electoral liberty in regard to Parliamentary representation than they at present possess in connection with municipalities, and it seems to us only a common-sense argument that if they are fit to be entrusted with votes for a borough Councillor they ought also to be fit to vote for a member of Parliament. We fear that the opposition the claims of women for enfranchisement encounter is more founded on prejudice than on anything else. It has been contended that they are not intellectually fit to be possessed of the franchise, and a great amount of balderdash is talked about their proper sphere being domestic duties. We have heard men even go the length of saying that the average woman of to-day could not afford time from the study of her personal adornment and the criticism of her neighbors’ to look into the public affairs of the colony, and that the only literature she cares to study is fiction, and the more romantic- and sensational the better. Sensible men know the sex better than this, and willalllow, if theyhave done anything in electioneering, that the averaae woman is just as well qualified to discriminate between two candidates for a Parliamentary seat, as two-thirds of the men who are noweutitledtovotes. Nothing can be simpler than the law regarding the registration of electors as it exists at the present moment ; yet not a tenth part of those men who are entitled to votes appear to understand it, or they so undervalue their privilege as to let it lie in abeyance, and neglect to enrol themselves. We feel certain that had women the same privilege the roll would bristle with feminine names —at any rate the ladies could not be more apathetic than are hundreds of the “ free and independent.” There is really no genuine objection to giving females votes, and it is a fully recognised axiom that representation should be co-ordinate with taxation. It is all nonsense to say they are unfitted to take part in electioneering strife, because they are not required to do it. The protection afforded by the ballot to male electors would be just as protective of females, and the latter need never join in the tom-foolery that too often characterises election meetings. Full information about a candidate’s politics can always be had from the press, and to the press hundreds of male voters look for such information as they desire. We feel thoroughly satisfied that were Dr. Wallis’s Bill passed nothing would ever occur to cause regret for its passage, and it would be the first blow to a prejudice that alone prevents the franchise from being as wide amongst women as it is now amongst men. So far as the municipal franchise is concerned, we have always found the ladies bestowing a sensible and well pondered over vote, and the men they supported were always such as deserved the honor done them. In matters of the heart women may be soft (so are men, for that matter) but they are sound enough in judgment when they set themselves to it.