Hundreds of New Zealand women clad in purple and white crammed into Government House's ballroom today to kick off celebrations marking 125 years of women's suffrage.
The host, Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, explained that the first tangible result of the suffrage movement was a single line in a single piece of New Zealand legislation.
"Reading the bill today, there's no real indication of its momentousness," she said.
"Its title is simply 'The Electoral Act' ... the instrument giving women the right to vote is one short line on the first page: 'qualifications: male or female'."
Feminist economist Prue Hyman was not allowed to join the Oxford Union while attending the prestigious university in the 1960s.
The debating chamber - she was told - was no place for a woman. That was not the case when she left.
"[It] was one of my earliest gender campaigns - to get us in," she said. "We got in, and I was one of the first women on the committee."
The world had improved for women since that time, Ms Hyman said.
"Awareness is far greater about inequality, about violence against women, about the gender pay gap.
"But there's still a long way to go. There's a lot of fight-back and defensiveness, and the constraints and more limited choices women have."
"There's still a long way to go."
Ms Hyman said she was terrified before delivering her first speech upon being admitted to the Oxford Union.
The moot, she said, was "the two cultures: the arts and the sciences."
The list of attendees spanned female leaders past, present and future.
Former prime minister Helen Clark was a late arrival, her flight into Wellington having been delayed.
Dame Patsy Reddy admitted to some retrospective pangs of guilt when she sees the assertiveness with which young women now approach gender equality.
"I think I'm of that generation that got on with things, and didn't put our heads up above the parapet because we felt that we had more chance of being equal if we didn't make a fuss.
"I look back on that now and I think that in a way we let this generation down. So I'm prepared to actually speak up for what I think is right."
And those young women had a presence too: dozens of teenage leaders from various Wellington high schools were in attendance.
The head girl of Chilton St James, 17 year-old Laura Wilson, was one of them.
"It's just empowering to be standing here, surrounded by people with such high beliefs and such big dreams for women ... who believe in the same things as you."
Young Māori and Pasifika women leaders spoke about the issues facing their communities, as well as Islamic and trans representatives.
Bella Simpson - a trans woman who came out 10 years ago - said the trans rights movement was still gaining momentum.
"We want to fight for our right to be ourselves."
"Trans healthcare is the biggest issue. It's not OK, and it's not fair, that we're waiting so long for basic health needs and that there are no clear pathways for trans people."
Minister for Women Julie-Anne Genter recalled when she first realised the world was not a level playing field.
"I remember being somewhere between the age of four and six and having this realisation that the men in my life - my father, my uncle, my grandfather - somehow seemed to have more power or independence in the world than the women in my life.
"I remember thinking I need to try to be more like them. Which is not what you want young women to be thinking. You want them to be thinking they can be whatever they want to be."
Asked what she wanted to do with her life, Ms Wilson from Chilton St James did not miss a beat.
"Performing arts", she answered.
Her school-friend, Azmarah Maniparathy, was similarly assertive.
Progress, they said, with knowing smiles. But still a long way to go.