Iconic Kiwi: Kate Sheppard

New Zealand has a long history of inspirational women leading change. As New Zealanders prepare to vote for a new government, we take a look back on how a little island in the Pacific became the first country in the world to give women the right to vote.

Introducing: Kate Sheppard. Born in Liverpool, England on the 10th of March 1847, Sheppard was raised and educated in Scotland, then moved to New Zealand in the 1860s. She was an activist and leader and was involved in social issues of the day. Sheppard believed that women should participate in all aspects of society including having the right to vote. Kate Sheppard led the suffragist movement (the fight to win the right for women to vote), collecting 31,872 signatures over seven years. It was the biggest petition ever gathered this side of the globe, with almost a quarter of the adult female population in New Zealand signing!

On the 19th of September 1893, the Electoral Act 1893 was passed and New Zealand became the first country in the world where women, as well as men, had the right to vote!

The move inspired other countries and suffragettes to follow New Zealand and Kate Sheppard’s footsteps.

Sheppard was a woman on a mission. In addition to getting this act through parliament, she founded the National Council of Women, established the first women-owned newspaper in New Zealand, and was a pioneering cyclist. Today, you can find her image on the $10 New Zealand banknote.

Kate Sheppard
"Do not think your single vote does not matter much. The rain that refreshes the parched ground is made up of single drops."