Kate Sheppard (birth name Catherine Wilson Malcolm) was born in Liverpool, England, on March 10th, 1847, to Scottish parents. Her parents gave her the name Catherine after her maternal grandmother. However, she preferred to spell her name with a K rather than C.
The family moved around a lot throughout the country. She spent her childhood in Liverpool, London, or Dublin. After he father’s death in 1862, she lived in Nairn in the Scottish Highlands.
In 1868, her mother decided to take Kate and her siblings to New Zealand to start a new life. They arrived in a gateway town to Christchurch called Lyttelton in February of 1869. Her older sister already lived in the city on New Zealand’s South Island.
She became a member of the Trinity Congregational Church, where she also met he future husband. Walter Allen Sheppard married Kate in July 1871. By this time, her interest in public life emerged.
Kate Sheppard and her activism
Besides fundraising, Kate Sheppard got involved with Temperance. That was a movement against alcohol consumption. In 1885, she helped found the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in New Zealand. It was the work in this organization that made Sheppard believe in the absolute need for woman’s suffrage. However, back in 1879, the government universal voting rights to all men. The bill still excluded women.
Soon, Kate Sheppard became the leader of WCTU’s suffrage campaign. Thus, the fight for women’s voting rights began. With the help of her husband, she delivered many speeches and lecturers and wrote pamphlets. But, her greatest strength was petitioning.
She presented many petitions demanding women voting rights to the parliament. However, the parliament never listened to her calls. That changed in 1893. Her petition with 32 thousand signatures was the largest petition submitted to the parliament in New Zealand. Hence, On September 19th, 1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to gain women the right to vote.
Later in her life, she continued to support women’s suffrage movements in the USA or UK. Besides, she also fought for women’s right to be elected. She died on July 13th, 1934 in Christchurch. She had one son born in 1880. Her legacy is an immense impact on women’s rights.
“Do not think your single vote does not matter much. The rain that refreshes the parched ground is made up of single drops.”Kate Sheppard