Māori suffragette

The first wahine to address the Kotahitanga Parliament

Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia is believed to have been born around May 22, 1868, on the Hokianga Harbour. However, the actual date is unknown as records from the time are unclear.

What is undeniable is that Mangakāhia is one of the most influential Māori women in New Zealand history.


Mangakāhia hailed from Ngāti Te Reinga, Ngāti Manawa and Te Kaitutae - three hapu of Te Rarawa. She was the eldest daughter of Hana Tera and Te Rarawa chief Re Te Tai.
In either the late 1880s or early 1890s, Mangakāhia became the third wife of Hāmiora Mangakāhia, of Ngāti Whanaunga.

He was an assessor in the Native Land Court and attended the 1889 meeting in the Bay of Islands, at which Te Kotahitanga (the Māori parliament movement) was formally initiated.
Three years later, he was elected Premier of the Kotahitanga Parliament in Hawke's Bay.

It was the following year that Mangakāhia made her famous address to the assembly, becoming the first woman to ever do so.

Not only did she move that Māori women should be given the vote, but also requested that they be eligible to sit in the Māori parliament - going one step further than the European suffrage movement.

She argued on the grounds that Māori women had owned and administered their own lands, and should have a say in decisions that affected them.

Mangakāhia later went on to join the women's committee of the Kotahitanga movement and remained involved in Māori politics and welfare movements until her death in 1920.

Mangakāhia and her husband had four children and spent their last years together at Whangapoua. When he died in 1918, she returned to her own people and lands at Panguru.

She died aged 52, and was buried at Pureirei cemetery.