To celebrate the contribution of Kate Sheppard (a famous suffragette who led the campaign for the vote for women New Zealand), ‘Go Girl’ pedestrian lanterns were installed at eight intersections within the Wellington Parliamentary Precinct. The pedestrian lanterns "shine a light" on the suffrage movement, connecting the public realm with political and social history.
On the 19 September 1893 New Zealand became the first nation in the world to legalise voting for women. This was the result of years of campaigns culminating in the Women's Suffrage Petition led by Kate Sheppard. It was a unique achievement at the time as most other democracies didn't grant women the vote until after the First World War.
In 2008 Prime Minister John Key and the Mayor launched the "Capital City Initiative - Our Extraordinary Democracy" which aimed to improve the area around Parliament and promote our Capital status to encourage students, tourists, immigrants and businesses to come to Wellington.
As part of this initiative we undertook major improvements to improve pedestrian connections between Parliament grounds and the rest of the capital. In the week prior to the 2014 general election, ‘cross now’ pedestrian lights were swapped from a green man to a silhouette of Kate Sheppard on eight Wellington intersections near Parliament.
Kate Sheppard now signals when it’s safe to cross the road. We made this change to celebrate her contribution to New Zealand and international history.
We worked with Parliament, the New Zealand Transport Agency and our traffic engineering team to install the lights. As our legislation is rather narrowly specific about the type of lantern required it was a challenge to ensure standards were met by a ‘non-standard’ item.
Pedestrian infrastructure is particularly important in Wellington as the Capital has over 21% commuters by foot. Wellington’s walkable and compact nature means we can tell our stories in our buildings and on the journey between them too. Whimsy and humour are memorable ways in which we can learn about our shared history and celebrate our Capital spaces.
Prior to becoming Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown founded Living Streets Aotearoa. She supports Walking School Buses, Community Street Audits, Safe Routes to School , the Golden Foot Awards and Walk2WorkDay. She brought the International Charter for Walking to the Wellington City Council in 2008
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says “The new lights remind New Zealanders and visitors of that historic achievement and the importance of our right to vote. Wellington was the first capital where women had the right to vote. It’s this world-leading attitude that we want to showcase in innovative ways.2015 is the 150th anniversary of this city becoming the Capital, we want people to recognise Wellington as a truly progressive city,” says the Mayor.
What people thoughtDeputy Mayor Justin Lester says, “This is a quintessentially quirky Wellington way to celebrate a unique and important part of our history.”
St Mary's College Wellington year 13 student and first time voter Jaime Clode says Kate Sheppard continues to inspire her generation.
New Zealand National Council of Women Chief Executive Sue McCabe said the new lights would help raise awareness about gender equality issues.
Mayor Wade-Brown presented at the 2014 Walk21 Conference in Sydney and the Kate Sheppard pedestrian lantern was very well received. Everyone loves it so much we may roll out this innovative idea across the city using other relevant and prominent people’s images.