Kiwi as

Since we are celebrating Suffrage 125, it is only right to add another New Zealand women’s first to our catalogue of achievements.  Today’s keen individual who inspires and surprises is thus Elizabeth Yates who, in November 1893, was elected the first woman mayor in the British Empire. Quote.

By becoming mayor of Onehunga, Auckland, Elizabeth Yates struck another blow for women’s rights in local-body polls held the day after the first general election in which women could vote.

Elizabeth’s husband, Captain Michael Yates, had been a member of the Onehunga Borough Council since 1885 and was mayor from 1888 until 1892, when ill health forced his retirement. The following year Elizabeth, who was a strong supporter of the women’s suffrage movement […], accepted nomination as mayor. After a ‘spirited contest’, she defeated her only opponent, local draper Frederick Court, by just 13 votes to become the first ‘lady mayor’ in the British Empire.

Yates’s victory was big news in New Zealand and around the empire, and she received congratulations from both Premier Richard Seddon and Queen Victoria. But her reign was short: opponents undermined her leadership and she was soundly defeated at the next mayoral election, on 28 November 1894. […] End of quote.

An online biography tells us more: Quote.

She was born Elizabeth Oman in Caithness, Scotland, probably between 1840 and 1848, and arrived in Auckland around 1853 with her parents and sister. […] On 15 December 1875 Elizabeth married Captain Michael Yates, a master mariner well known in the coastal trade; there were no children of the marriage.

Michael Yates was a member of the Onehunga Borough Council from 1885 and mayor from 1888 to 1892, when ill health forced his retirement. Elizabeth, meanwhile, belonged to the Auckland Union Parliament and was a keen debater at its meetings. She was a strong supporter of the women’s suffrage movement, and was the first woman to record her vote in the Onehunga electorate in the general election held on 28 November 1893.

[…] The office also brought her an appointment as a justice of the peace. After being sworn in before Supreme Court Judge Edward Conolly on 16 January 1894, she officiated occasionally as magistrate in cases involving women.

[…] Not everyone was happy: four councillors and the town clerk resigned immediately in protest. Council meetings were often disruptive, and three councillors opposed every proposal she submitted. Elizabeth’s somewhat tactless, dictatorial manner and lack of regard for established rules of procedure didn’t help the situation. Curious spectators often crammed the small council chamber, while unruly elements hooted and jeered outside. Newspapers published verbatim accounts of these ‘disgraceful’ scenes.

After a difficult year in office, Yates was soundly defeated at the polls on 28 November 1894. Despite her brief tenure, she left a valuable legacy: she had liquidated the borough debt, established a sinking fund, upgraded roads, footpaths and sanitation, and reorganised the fire brigade. Even her opponents agreed she had been an able administrator.

Elizabeth returned to the Onehunga Borough Council in September 1899, serving until April 1901. She died in Auckland on 6 September 1918 and was buried in St Peter’s churchyard, Onehunga, beside her husband, who had died in 1902. End of quote.


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WH is a pale, stale, male who does not believe all the doom and gloom climate nonsense so enjoys generating CO2 that the plants need to grow by driving his MG.

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