Murder By Vote
In Book 3, Penrose & Pyke are flung into an explosive new mystery during the campaign for women’s suffrage.
Politicians are worried that women voters will oust them, liquor barons are terrified that women favour temperance over drunkenness, and the man in the street fears their womenfolk will no longer be content with home and hearth.
Just how far will they go to stop women from getting the vote? Medical student Grace Penrose and Detective Constable Charlie Pyke are about to find out.
After last-ditch political trickery scuppers their chance to achieve the vote for women in 1891, the suffragists of New Zealand are back with a vengeance in 1892. Determined not to be beaten, women go out once again into streets, alleys and country lanes across the nation, aiming to collect more than twenty thousand signatures – by far the largest petition ever presented to the New Zealand Parliament.
Nowhere is the battle for the hearts and minds of the populace more intense than in Dunedin during April 1892.
More women in Dunedin have signed the suffrage petition than anywhere else, thanks to the hard work of women like Harriet Morrison, Secretary of the Dunedin Tailoresses’ Union (image from Hocken Library) and Helen Nicol, local franchise superintendent. (See my post, Five Inspiring Suffragists).
Opponents are beginning to worry that political trickery alone will not be enough to stop the Franchise Bill this year. Loud, brash politician, Henry Fish, has launched a counter-petition, aiming to prove that women do not want the vote and men do not want to give it to them (image from the National Library).
Accusations of dubious tactics soon hit the newspapers, including fraud, bribery and paying for signatures, which Fish denies. He is supported by the liquor lobby, who fear that women voters will destroy their livelihood, by voting for stricter liquor licensing or even prohibition. It’s already happening on a local level, with several hotels already closed by Prohibitionists in Dunedin.
The only way to prove their case is to collect yet more signatures attesting to the devious tricks of Fish’s canvassers. A counter-petition to the counter-petition against the suffrage petition! (See my post, Rocky Road to Suffrage, coming soon, for more details).
The suffragists of Dunedin know that they need to show, once and for all, that women from all walks of life most emphatically desire the right to vote. They have already collected thousands of signatures – now they are planning a Women’s Franchise League, an organisation focussed solely on votes for women, open to all women, regardless of religion and temperance beliefs. The inaugural meeting is set for 28 April 1892, at Choral Hall…
…. That is where the true events of April 1892 end and the fictional story in Murder By Vote begins.
Strap in and enjoy the ride, as the suffragists (with the help of Grace Penrose and Charlie Pyke) take on a threat bigger than any of them had ever imagined.
The real campaign was fought via meetings, pamphlets and, most notably, by petitions. The petitions collected an astounding number of signatures, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt to the politicians of the day that women wanted the vote.
Here’s a photo of the main petition from 1893 (Source: National Library).
Almost a quarter of New Zealand women signed, an extraordinary achievement and a powerful testament to the door-knocking, speech-giving dedication of a band of determined campaigners.
Needless to say, in the fictional story of Murder By Vote, the suffrage campaign takes a far more dramatic turn, led by the various factions who wanted to stop women getting the vote, at any cost.
Here’s a sample of the anti-suffrage feeling they faced. (Source: National Library).
One look at this makes me want to empty those slops right over Mr Wright’s head!
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