Our Suffrage Women

If you can help us add more photos and stories of the women who signed the suffrage petition we would love to hear from you.

Suffrage Petition and the Women of Te Aroha

A recent display which, by sustained interest was exhibited for five years, covered the stories of the women who signed the suffrage petition from Te Aroha and surrounding districts.  

Meticulously researched by volunteer Andrea Oosterwijk.

Our town is in a special position in the Waikato and Coromandel area - we have 77 women who signed the suffrage petition in 1893. Thames is the only place with more signatories and in many places no women signed the petition at all including Hamilton, Matamata, Morrinsville and Paeroa.

Close to 32,000 women from around New Zealand and a few men signed the 1893 petition. Te Aroha and Te Aroha West’s pages were first sent to Auckland and then Christchurch to be glued onto one long roll that was then presented to parliament in Wellington. 

On 19 September 1893 the right to vote was granted to New Zealand’s women and with a looming polling date on 28 November that same year, women registered on the electoral roll to take up their new right to vote. A monumental achievement for a young country looking to make a unique mark on the world.

This exhibition is now online and continues to celebrate our local women making this decision.

If you find a name you recognise in our list and have a photograph you are willing to share with the Museum for this display, or have any other information, please get in contact with the Museum.

Sarah Bygrave

Born on 14 July 1861, Hertfordshire, England. She was the daughter of James and Sarah (nee Page) Warren. She married George Bygrave on 18 October 1883; they arrived in New Zealand before 1887. Sarah gave birth to nine children between 1887 and 1903.

It is likely that Sarah was a bath attendant, here in the Cadman Bath House.

Frances Fugill

Born on 14 May 1843, Yorkshire, England.  She was the daughter of George Brocklebank and Elizabeth Bradshaw.  She married Charles Fugill on 26 November 1863 in England.  

The family were initially at Thames and in Te Aroha by 1885 when their second youngest was born. In total they had four sons and four daughters.

Mary Ann Stanley

Born in Stanley, Upper Canada she came to New Zealand with her parents James and Mary Ann Farmer on the Empress, arriving in March 1868. She married Thomas Stanley from Cornwall, England on 23 July 1873.
In later years Mary was President of the local Red Cross, while her husband was Mayor of Te Aroha.
Mary Ann died on 19 August 1940.

Emma Blencowe

Emmalah Fox, (Emma) was born in 1843, near Shrewsbury, England. She married Richard Nathaniel Blencowe and in 1865 moved to Auckland. By 1880 they were living in Te Aroha, where Richard worked as a gold miner until his death in 1891.

As a widow, Emma sold fruit and confectionery and later ran the Carlton Boarding House in Te Aroha for many years. 

Eliza Sheat

Eliza Sheat and her husband, Henry James, have a special distinction in that both their mothers signed the petition.
Eliza was born 1842 in Somerset, England to John Sheat and Mary Higgins.
Eliza married John Higdon in 1863 at East Pennard in Somerset and they arrived in New Zealand on the Rangitiki in 1879. Eliza died on 19 July 1907. 

Margaret Moran
Margaret was born in 1843 in Scotland.  Margaret's parents came to New Zealand in 1847 as part of the Fencibles.
Margaret married Thomas Herbert Biggs in 1862 and had a large family of 15 children.
One of her sons, William Alexander Biggs, married Pauline Wilhelmina Hirst in 1893 who also signed the petition.

Hannah Caverhill
Hannah Rebecca Frances Caverhill (nee King)

Emily James
Emily arrived in New Zealand in 1865.  She married Joseph James in Cambridge in 1867.  Initially they moved to Thames which is where Henry James (see Eliza Sheat) was born. 
Emily and Joseph had at total of four sons and three daughters.

Mary Maingay

Mary Clements Michael

Joseph Kerby and Alice Jane Allen

Mary Jane Boardman Stanley

Sarah and Adam Laybourn

Sarah Jane and John Craig

John and Eliza Higdon

Ellen Higdon Lusby

List for web