Kate Sheppard was a social activist and a key leader in the New Zealand movement to give women the right to vote. She has done well by joining the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and the National Council of Women. Kate encouraged women to take part in both social and political life. Because of how well she led and how well she could write and speak, New Zealand was the first country to give women over 21 the right to vote. She also started the first newspaper that was only run by women. Sheppard’s work had a big effect on women’s rights movements in many countries around the world, not just in New Zealand.
Early years and childhood
Kate Sheppard was born in Liverpool, England, on March 10, 1847. Her parents were Jemima Crawford Souter and Andrew Wilson Malcolm, who were from Scotland.
Even though her real name was Katherine Wilson Malcolm, everyone called her “Kate.”
In 1869, Sheppard and her siblings moved to Christchurch, New Zealand, with their mother.
Kate Sheppard’s Career
Kate spent a few of her early years with her uncle, who was a minister in the Free Church of Scotland. Because of this, she has always been interested in religion.
She took part in temperance activities because she was a member of the Trinity Congregational Church.
In 1885, she helped start the Women’s Christian Temperance Union as part of the temperance movement. This group slowly began to push for women’s right to vote. Her sister Isabella May was also active in the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and always stood by Kate.
Kate Sheppard’s fight for women’s rights was mostly about equality in politics and making changes to society. She took charge of this problem and started criticizing a society that encourages differences based on race, religion, and gender.
As a very good cyclist, she also pushed women to do more physical activities and train. Her work to change the strict rules about how women should dress was also a good example.
Kate’s main goal was to get a seat in parliament so she could work for social and legal changes that would help women and children.
In 1887, the Union made Kate Sheppard the national superintendent of the department for voting rights and laws.
In 1879, men over 21 got the right to vote. Women, on the other hand, tried to get the same right through bills in 1878 and 1879 but failed.
In 1887, Kate helped pass the first bill that gave women the right to vote. In 1888, Sheppard wrote a book called “Ten Reasons Why the Women of N.Z. Should Vote.” It was written in a way that moved people who read it.
In 1891, the Temperance Union sent its first petition to Parliament. John Hall, Alfred Saunders, and John Balance, who was the Premier at the time, all backed the petition. Also, two larger petitions were presented. The one from 1893, which had around 32,000 signatures, was one of the largest.
The Electoral Act gave women the full right to vote on September 19, 1893, when the women’s suffrage bill was finally passed. This made Kate Sheppard the leader of the women’s suffrage movement.
Kate was able to register two-thirds of the women voters in the same year’s (1893) general election, despite the lack of time and other social barriers. This made New Zealand the first country to give women the right to vote.
Kate did similar things in England and the United States. In 1895, she started a newspaper in New Zealand called White Ribbon. It was run by women only.
She did a lot more than just work in politics. For example, she helped married women get the right to control their own money by starting the National Council of Women in April 1896.
In 1909, the International Council of Women chose Kate Sheppard to be its honorary vice-president.
She worked on political changes like proportional representation, veto laws, not being part of a party, and having parliament members choose the cabinet, among other things.
Awards & Achievements
In Christchurch, a memorial was built in honor of Sheppard to remember her work for women’s rights.
The New Zealand Historic Places Trust has registered her Fendalton house at 83, Clyde Road as a Category I heritage building. It is also known as the Kate Sheppard House because it was the site of many women’s suffrage events.
Several schools in New Zealand, like Christchurch South Intermediate, Cashmere High School, Christchurch Girls’ High School, and Rangiora High School, have named houses after her.
New Zealand’s ten-dollar bill also has her picture on it.
On September 19, 1993, the Kate Sheppard Memorial was built to honor the fact that New Zealand women have had the right to vote for 100 years.
Mervyn Thompson wrote “O Temperance,” a play about Sheppard and the Temperance movement. It was first put on at the Christchurch Court Theatre in 1972.
A street in Wellington’s parliament area is named after her: Kate Sheppard Place. There is also Kate Sheppard Avenue in the Northcross neighborhood of Auckland.
Personal History and Legacies
Kate’s family moved to New Zealand a few years after her father died.
Walter Allen Sheppard, a wealthy general merchant, married her on July 21, 1871, when she was 24 years old.
In 1868, her husband was a Councilor in Christchurch City. He was 12 years older than she was. In 1880, they were lucky enough to have a son, whom they named Douglas.
Kate was always kind to people who were in trouble. In the end, it was her sense of fairness that helped her get rid of the different ways women and children were treated in society.
Her only son died in 1910, and her husband died in Bath, England, on July 24, 1915. This left her with her only grandchild, Margaret Isobel Sheppard, who also died in 1930.
Kate got married again at age 78 in 1925, ten years after her husband died. William Sidney Lovell-Smith, her second husband, was an old friend and also a supporter of women’s right to vote. He died four years after they got married.
Kate passed away at her home in Riccarton, Christchurch, New Zealand, on July 13, 1934. She was cremated with her mother, a brother, and a sister at the Addington cemetery.
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