Councillor Gaile Noonan shows what it would’ve been like for women of the suffrage movement. Photo: Sara Hollyman.

Broadgreen House celebrates women’s rights


One hundred and twenty five years ago, one of the most important protest movements in New Zealand history was taking place and Broadgreen House are celebrating this milestone with an exhibition shining a light on what it was like to be a woman during this time.

In 1893, the women’s suffrage movement, led by Kate Sheppard, were lobbying throughout the country to obtain equal polling status – they wanted woman to have the right to vote, and they achieved it.

From now until the end of summer, the free exhibition at Broadgreen House gives a unique view into women of different social classes from servant maids through to the mother of the household and her young daughters.

The exhibition, Suffragists at Home – stitching and styles for a cause – is centred around the fact that the home was the heart and hub of many suffragists in the 19th century. It helps show how clothing and accessories were used in the quest to help NZ women get the vote.

Volunteer and textile expert Karen Richards says it’s taken about five months to get the exhibition together.

“What we’ve tried to show in each room is what the people in that room would’ve been doing at that time, and embroidery is a big part of it.”

“This one coat, I spent 10 hours working on, all the little nodules are wood with silk stitched around them so it’s a lot of work, which is not unusual.”

Chair of Nelson City Council’s community services committee Gaile Noonan says that we should not take for granted the things that women back then fought for us to have.

“With all of what the women did in the past and how hard it was for them, we should be actually encouraging all women to at least vote or to stand for election.

“Look at all the effort that was taken for us to have the right and so many people don’t vote, and I’d like to encourage those people to vote.

Gaile says that it would’ve been a very interesting time to be a “fly on the wall”.

“To see how passionate they were, and how important it was, because I think that we take those things for granted and it wasn’t for them, it was huge. “Imagine the conversations that they were having while they were stitching these things, what they were going to do and how radical it was.”

The exhibition is free to enter and is open every day between 11am and 3pm. Summer hours begin from October which will extend the hours from 10.30am – 4.30pm.
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