19th Century Women Landowners

In the 125th year since New Zealand women got the vote, it is

important to understand the context in which their emergence

into full citizenship happened.

Once aspect of this is women’s function as property owners,

and how, in settler society their right and obligations were

expressed in formal relationships. For all land-owning women,

paying rates on their real property was an obligation imposed

from 1876, when the Rating Act, the Municipal Act and Counties

Act were passed in the NZ Parliament. Both the Municipal

Corporations Act and the Counties Act gave women ratepayers

the right to vote in local elections and for married women,

independent ownership rights came from the Married Women’s

Property Act in 1884.

The relationship between women’s status as ratepayers and

married women as property owners is especially interesting in

rural areas. A woman’s entitlement to vote for local councillors

in 1876 hinged on her appearance on the valuation roll. So if

land was listed in the rating records in a woman’s name, she

could vote and she was also liable to pay the rates. Sharlene’s

research proposes to explore and explain how this legal

structure played out in the Tauranga County.


Sharlene is asking the public to provide further information

about the named women and the land that was registered

under their name in the 1902-1903 Tauranga Country Rate



“What I am hoping to find out from the public is all the extra details about the land the women held in their names. I am interested in how the land came into the women's name, the land use, occupation and education of the women, any maps, plans or titles to the land and how the women then disposed of the land, by sale or will.”


"The women are not strongly represented in public records so the search for private records helps the research and can give a better understanding of the economic and political life of women. Any stories the families may hold about the women and the land would be useful to build up the broader picture and if they know of any political interests."

Here is the list that we currently have that Sharlene has compiled.  If you do have any further information please email Sharlene Rumney research@westernbaymuseum.nz.

Image: Adela Stewart and Hugh Stewart of Athnree 

Women Landowner by region

Katikati Road and Outlying District

Te Puna Road District

Te Puke Road District

Maketu Outlying District


Telephone: +64 07-549-0651      Email: info@westernbaymuseum.nz

Address: 32 Main Road, Katikati, 3129, Western Bay of Plenty, New Zealand  


Monday - Friday 10am - 4pm

Saturday & Sunday 11am - 3pm