“We want to be natural just for a change... we must be ourselves at all risks.” These are the words of Kate Sheppard. On March 10 1847, Liverpool, England, Catherine Wilson Malcolm was born. Also known as Katherine (preferred spelling term) or Kate. She was named after her grandmother. As a woman, Kate felt strongly towards women’s rights. She didn’t hesitate at changing the world for the better for women.
At a young age, having Scottish parents, Kate, her mother Jemima Crawford Souter and her father Andrew Wilson Malcolm moved to Scotland. She was raised and educated there. She was given a good education for a girl at the time. But unfortunately in 1862 Kate’s father passed away.
In the late 1860’s she moved with her family to New Zealand. They arrived in Motoaka at Lyttleton in February 1869. The family settled in Christchurch where Katherine’s sister, Marie Beath, was living. Kate soon met a young man called Walter Allen Sheppard, a grocer and general merchant, the love of her life. Two years later on July 21 1871, at the age of 24, Katherine and Walter were pronounced man and wife. On October 8 1880 their only son Douglas was born. During the early years of her marriage, Kate Sheppard was an active member of the Trinity Congregational Church. She gave her time to church visiting, fundraising and bible classes. She became a secretary of the Ladies Association. In 1885 she co-founded New Zealand Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).
Working with the organization immediately shed light on the rights for women to vote. Two years after the WCTU was created, Kate was named leader of its suffrage campaign. Eventually Kate promoted the benefits of cycling and other physical activities for women. With the support and care of her husband, Kate was a very busy woman, giving out pamphlets, giving speeches and pushing a series of petitions before Parliament, in an effort to secure the right to vote for women. A number of petitions failed but she didn’t give up then.
A year later she returned to Parliament with a what she described as a ‘monster’ petition. It contained more than 30,000 signatures. On September 19 1893, Governor Glasgow (Sir David Boyle) signed the bill, making New Zealand the FIRST country in the world to let women have the right to vote.
We are very lucky here in New Zealand because some countries are just letting women vote this year. Kate Sheppard changed the world for the better.