Matrons with a mission : women's organisations in New Zealand, 1893-1915 : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University

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There have consistently been two aspects to the development of a generalised feminist consciousness. One has involved the personal drive toward autonomy and self determination - the expression of which resulted mainly in individual onslaughts on male-oriented systems of education and employment - the other, the combination of forces for the attainment of a more comprehensive system of social, economic and legal rights. However they went about it, feminists always sought to have women determine for themselves their own sphere in life, and to have them develop their talents and faculties to the fullest without the restraints of sexually-circumscribed notions of what was permissible or proper. In this country the organised aspect of feminist effort was manifest in the campaign for women's suffrage, which finally resulted in New Zealand becoming the first national state to enfranchise its women on the same terms as its men. The franchise campaign has received thorough coverage in Patricia Grimshaw's book Women's Suffrege in New Zealand, which argues for the independent role played by the Women's Christian Temperance Union in the agitation, and for the genuine feminist motivation behind the Union's activities. Following the acquisition of the vote, several commentators in overseas journals remarked on the proliferation of women's societies in New Zealand that were devoted to political organisation and social reform, and, in 1896 the National Council of Women came into being to co-ordinate the activities of these bodies. And yet, in 1910 Mrs Kate Sheppard, the leader of the franchise movement wrote that women's societies in New Zealand were few and, where they did exist, worked largely in isolation. Something had obviously happened to undermine the sense of purpose and enthusiasm which had inspired so many women in the previous decade.
New Zealand Society for the Protection of Women and Children, New Zealand Women's Christian Temperance Union, National Council of Women of New Zealand, Women, Societies and clubs, New Zealand