The Teacher and Editor - Nellie Jane Peryman (1868-1947)
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Our oldest recording of a voter of 1893 is that of Nellie Peryman, who was born Ellen Jane Levy in Wellington in 1868.
Her voice was recorded in 1943 in the lead up to a general election – which also coincided with the 50th suffrage anniversary. She was something of a public figure, as the long-time editor of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union newspaper, “The White Ribbon”, and a regular newspaper correspondent writing on women’s issues, such as the need to have indecent assault cases heard in closed courts and a public speaker on the evils of "the drink traffic."
She was a grand-daughter of Solomon Levy, a founding member of Wellington’s Jewish community, who had arrived with the New Zealand Company in 1840. Her father Alfred Lipman Levy had married a Wesleyan (Methodist), Mary Ann Mordin in 1867 and it appears Nellie was also a Wesleyan.
As she explains in her recording, she was a teacher at Petone School when she voted in 1893. She refers to helping gather names for the suffrage petitions and the difficulty getting some women to sign. Her name appears on the earlier 1892 suffrage petition, and she may have already been a member of the W.C.T.U. at that point.
In 1897 Nellie married Reverend Samuel Huxtable Dewsbury Peryman, a Wesleyan minister. His mother and sister-in-law had both also signed the suffrage petition in Canterbury. Nellie remained active in leadership roles of the W.C.T.U. and became editor of its monthly paper “The White Ribbon” in 1913, a position she held until 1945.
In the 1925, Nellie Peryman wrote an article and short booklet entitled “How We Won the Franchise in New Zealand.” In it she wrote the lines which were chosen in 1993 to appear on the Kate Sheppard Suffrage Memorial that was erected in Christchurch to mark the centenary of women getting the vote: "We, the mothers of the present, need to impress upon our children’s minds how the women of the past wrestled and fought, suffered and wept, prayed and believed, agonised and won for them the freedom they enjoy today..” 1
1. Peryman, Nellie, “How We won the Franchise in New Zealand”, published by N.Z. Women’s Christian Temperance Union Inc. 1925
Image credit: The White Ribbon, April 1945. Courtesy Alexander Turnbull Library.
Catalogue Reference 31618