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Gathering support . . . Rehearsing their re-creation of a local suffrage meeting are (from left) Elle Taylor, pianist Lyza Richardson and singer Olivia Bungard. PHOTO: SALLY BROOKER

North Otago woman Elle Taylor was always keen to hold a suffrage event at this year’s Oamaru Victorian Heritage Celebrations.

Then when she discovered a close family connection to the 1893 petition that led to New Zealand becoming the first country in the world to give women the vote, the project became even more relevant.

Mrs Taylor’s husband’s great-great-grandmother, Christchurch woman Mary Jane Carpenter, was the first person to sign the 1983 petition organised by Kate Sheppard. The 270m-long document, signed by a quarter of all adult Pakeha women in the country, persuaded legislators to grant women the right to vote.

Mrs Taylor and a group of other young women are presenting a glimpse into the days leading up to that moment. They are staging a suffrage meeting similar to what would have taken place all around the country.

It will include the arguments for and against letting women vote, and a variety of entertainment in keeping with a Victorian soiree.

The women have been working on the project since August.

North Otago Museum collections and exhibitions curator and award-winning short story writer Chloe Searle has written the script.

The cast features Hokitika Museum curator David Verrall, who has become well-known for portraying former prime minister Richard Seddon. He also plays the accordion and sings.

“I don’t know where David stops and the character begins,” Mrs Taylor said.

A letter delivered at suffrage meetings in Otago during the campaign would be read out and “a number of small acts” would provide a mix of information and levity, Mrs Taylor said.

The gathering is being held at The Harbour Street Collective Cafe at 7pm on Thursday, November 15. Entry is free but space is limited. Bookings can be made at the cafe or via ovhcommittee@gmail.com.