11 May 2017

It’s been 100 years since Ada Wells broke with tradition and became the first woman elected to the Christchurch City Council – and today her commitment to the suffrage movement was recognised.

Wells, a key figure in the suffrage movement through the 1880s and 1890s, was today honoured by Christchurch City Council with a meeting room adjacent to the Council Chambers officially named the The Camellia Room – in recognition of the white camellia which became the national symbol of Women's Suffrage Day and women's rights.

Ada Wells' grandson Bruce and great, great granddaughter Paige, 14, with Mayor.

Ada Wells' grandson Bruce and her great, great granddaughter Paige joined Mayor Lianne Dalziel to cut a cake in her honour.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the naming of the room marked 100 years since Wells was elected to the Christchurch City Council.

“While Kate Sheppard led the campaign, Wells made an invaluable contribution as a fervent, efficient organiser and campaigner. After women were granted the vote in 1893, Wells did not retire from public life – she continued to spearhead the suffrage campaign and we will be forever in debt to her for her pioneering strength and commitment to equality.”

Ada Wells worked tirelessly to achieve equality and economic independence for women. She came to New Zealand with her parents at the age of 10 and became active in the women’s suffrage campaign in the 1880s, a period during which the movement was generally condemned and ridiculed.

Wells won office in 1899, becoming one of the first two women to be elected to the Ashburton and North Canterbury United Charitable Aid Board. She bettered this in 1917 when she was the first woman elected to the Christchurch City Council. By the time of her death in March 1933, the same year that Christchurch woman Elizabeth McCombs became the first women elected to the New Zealand parliament, Wells was acknowledged as one of New Zealand’s foremost public women.

Ada Wells

Ada Wells

Christchurch City Councillor Sara Templeton said Wells was not only a pioneer as a woman in politics, but had worked tirelessly to improve the lives of so many.

"She paved the way for me and so many other women to choose politics and make our voices heard. Diversity, of all types, is important around the decision making tables of the country and in Christchurch we have Ada Wells, Kate Sheppard, Elizabeth McCombs and so many others to thank for their persistence and dogged hard work.

“It's fitting to be able to recognise the achievements of Ada and other early women councillors by having a new Camellia Room named and photographs hung on the centenary of Ada's election and I'm looking forward to seeing them as I walk to the Council Chambers for meetings."