Kate Sheppard’s Story

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Catherine Wilson Malcolm was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, England, on 10 March 1847.

Her early childhood years were spent in London, Nairn in Scotland, and Dublin. A child of outstanding intellectual ability, she was well educated and her later writings reflect an extensive knowledge of the sciences, arts and the law.

In 1885 Kate Sheppard became a founding member of the New Zealand Women’s Christian Temperance Union.

It was quickly realised by the union that proposed social and legislative reforms concerning the welfare of women and children would be more effectively carried out if women possessed the right to vote and the right to representation in Parliament.

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union took the first of three major petitions to Parliament in 1891. It was signed by more than 9,000 women, and the second in 1892 by more than 19,000.

The Electoral Act 1893 was passed on 19 September and Kate Sheppard received a telegram from the premier, Richard Seddon, previously her political enemy in the House, conceding victory to the women.

Kate took her message worldwide and continued too fight for women’s suffrage. Due to ill health, she returned to New Zealand 1904. She died at her home at Riccarton, Christchurch, on 13 July 1934, and was buried in Addington cemetery with her mother, a brother and a sister.

The Christchurch Times reported her death in simple appreciation:
‘A great woman has gone, whose name will remain an inspiration to the daughters of New Zealand while our history endures.’

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