Happy Birthday Blog: Kate Sheppard

Happy Birthday Blog: Kate Sheppard

Catherine ‘Kate’ Wilson Malcom

Born: March 10, 1847

Liverpool, England, UK

Known for: New Zealand suffragette

Born in England, and raised in Scotland, Kate emigrated to New Zealand with her family in 1868. Following her marriage to William Sheppard, Kate began to advocate for women’s suffrage. She promoted suffrage, including a woman’s right to divorce and serve in Parliament, through organizing meetings, and writing pamphlets. 

Sheppard was active in several social and religious organizations, and even helped found the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). In her position as the WCTU’s National Superintendent for Franchise and Legislation, she used her position to advocate for suffrage. She was the editor of The White Ribbon the first woman-owned, operated, and published newspaper in New Zealand. Two of her more well-known pamphlets Ten Reasons Why the Women of New Zealand Should Vote and Should Women Vote? helped to raise awareness and advocate for suffrage. 

All her work culminated in a petition with over 30,000 signatures that she took to Parliament and led to the successful extension of the right to vote to women in 1893. New Zealand became the first country in the world to extend full suffrage to women.

Sheppard didn’t stop there. In 1896, she became the first president of the National Council of Women of New Zealand and helped reform the organization in 1918. She continued to fight for women’s rights around the world after achieving suffrage in New Zealand. She advocated for the right to use contraception and the freedom from corsets. She also traveled to England later in life to help the British suffragettes.

To this day, Sheppard is commemorated as one of the leading figures of New Zealand history. Her profile can be found on the 10 pound note, replacing Queen Elizabeth in 1991. For her tireless work for women’s right, we salute her and wish her a very happy birthday!

Learn more about Kate here.

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