Firsts from a Couple of Small Islands*

8hoursday_banner_1856For a small country (population about 4.5 million) New Zealand has a surprising number of “firsts.” As early as 1890 it was the first country in the world to establish an eight-hour working day for craftsmen and laborers on the principle, “eight hours for labour, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest.”[1] In 1893 it became the first country in the world to give women the vote. The United Kingdom and the United States would not get round to it for another quarter of a century. In 1953 a New Zealander, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Tenzing Norgay, a Nepalese mountaineer, were the first climbers in the world to reach the summit of Mount Everest: the announcement of this achievement being a nice gift to young Queen Elizabeth II on her coronation day. New Zealand is the first country in the world to have three women in major positions of power simultaneously—the Prime Minister is Helen Clark, the Governor General is Dame Silvia Cartwright, and the Chief Justice, Sian Elias— hence New Zealand’s version of the “Keep Calm” tag: “Keep Calm and Let Girls Rule.” New Zealand is already a world leader in the use of renewable energy, and intends to be the first country in the world with 100% renewable energy: the goal is 2025, and may well be achieved. Continue reading “Firsts from a Couple of Small Islands*”