Freethought of the Day

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There are 1 entries for this date: John Ballance
John Ballance

John Ballance

On this date in 1839, John Ballance was born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, the first of 11 children. The ironmonger's apprentice emigrated first to Birmingham, then, with his new wife, to New Zealand. Ballance began publishing the Wanganui Herald newspaper. First elected to the House of Representatives in 1875 on a ticket calling for free education, Ballance later became Minister of Education and Minister of Finance. He was then appointed Native Minister and Minister for Defence and Lands. Ballance founded his country's Liberal Party. In 1891, Ballance was elected the 14th Prime Minister of New Zealand as a Liberal.

He is credited with many progressive reforms, improving government relations with Maoris, and calling for the "absolute equality of the sexes." As premier, Ballance secured the right to vote for his countrywomen, making New Zealand the first country to do so. Joseph McCabe, in A Biographical Dictionary of Rationalists, termed Ballance "an outspoken Rationalist and a high-minded Humanitarian." He died at age 54 after surgery to treat an intestinal disease in 1893 at the height of his popularity.

Ballance, c. 1880. Public domain photo.

"He took his politics from his liberal mother, who had a Quaker upbringing, rather than his conservative Church of Ireland father. Ultimately, Ballance rejected Christianity altogether, becoming a free thinker."

—Ulster historian Gordon Lucy, Belfast News Letter (July 23, 2018)

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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