Milestones: World firsts for women

New Zealand can boast of many different global "firsts" for women. Here are just a few:

1893: All adult women citizens (including Māori) gained the right to vote in national elections, the first self-governing country in the world to do so. 

1902: Ellen Dougherty of Wellington, 58, was the first name on the registered nurse roll - New Zealand was the first country to pass legislation on the registration of nurses. 

1929: Phoebe Myers of Wellington, 57, was the first woman to represent her country at the League of Nations. 

1934: Jean Batten of Rotorua, 35, was the first woman to achieve a solo flight from England to Australia and back again; her 1936 flight from England to Brazil was a first for women aviators and set a record for the fastest crossing of the South Atlantic Ocean. 

1966: Princess Piki Paki of Huntly, 35, was chosen to become the first Māori Queen; Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu was the sixth Māori monarch of the Kingitanga. 

1976: Mary Ronnie of Dunedin, 50, became the first woman in the world to head a national library (1976-1981). 

1978: Naomi Power James of Hawkes Bay, 29, was the first woman to have sailed solo around the world via Cape Horn, the classic "Clipper Route," beating by two days the record set by the English yachtsman Francis Chichester. 

1990: Penelope "Penny" Allen Jamieson of Karori West, 48, was the first woman in the world to head an Anglican diocese when she was appointed the seventh Bishop of Dunedin (1990-2004). 

1993: Jane Campion of Wellington, 39, was the first female filmmaker to receive a Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival (for "The Piano"). 

1995: Georgina Beyer of Wairarapa, 38, was the world's first transgender woman elected Mayor, and then Member of Parliament in 1999. 

2000: Debbie Hockley of Christchurch, 38, playing for the White Ferns was the world's first woman to score over 1000 test runs (between 1979-2000), holding the record for ICC Women's Cricket World Cup runs

2009: Helen Clark of Auckland, 59, was the first woman to serve as Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (2009-2017). 

2013: Parris Goebel of Auckland, 22, while choreographer of the Palace Dance Studio won the World Hip Hop Dance Championship for the third time in a row, with her group The Royal Family becoming the first in the world to achieve this. 

2013: Eleanor Catton of Christchurch, 28, was the youngest author ever to win the Man Booker prize (for The Luminaries which was the longest book to win that prize). 

2015: Lydia Ko of Albany, 17, was ranked No. 1 woman professional golfer, being the youngest player of any gender to be ranked No. 1 in the world. 

2022: Portia Woodman-Wickliffe of Auckland, 30, played on the Olympic gold medal winning Black Ferns Sevens rugby team and was the first woman to score 200 then 250 in the world Sevens Series tries. 



Adapted and expanded from "WOMEN - NOTABLE FIRSTS IN NZ: A DigitalNZ Story by Zokoroa" DigitalNZ


To read more articles from The Circular (May-June 2024) issue 647, click on the tag below.
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