“All that separates, whether of race, class, creed, or sex, is inhuman, and must be overcome.” –Kate Sheppard
Catherine Wilson Malcolm was born on this day in Liverpool
in 1847. Today is the 166th anniversary of her birth.
Although christened Catherine she preferred Kate. She lived in London, Nairn (Scotland) and Dublin. She was well-educated and excelled in science, the arts and law. She shared her father’s love of music and her mother’s faith in the Free church of Scotland (her uncle was a minister in the church.) She lived in the UK until 1869. After her father passed away her mother, brother and sister moved to Christchurch, New Zealand. At 24 she married Walter Allen Sheppard, and they had a son, Douglas.
In New Zealand she got involved in the temperance movement.
Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which advocated women’s suffrage as a means to fight for liquor prohibition. For Kate, suffrage quickly became an end in itself. Speaking for a new generation, she argued, ‘We are tired of having a “sphere” doled out to us, and of being told that anything outside that sphere is “unwomanly”.’ [New Zealand History Time Line]
She quickly became the leading voice for the movement and deployed her organizational, writing and speech making skills to rally other women to the cause. The women refused to follow the advice of critics such as ” Wellington resident Henry Wright” who wrote…
…women were ‘recommended to go home, look after their children, cook their husbands’ dinners, empty the slops, and generally attend to the domestic affairs for which Nature designed them’; they should give up ‘meddling in masculine concerns of which they are profoundly ignorant’. [Ibid]
New Zealand became the first country to pass a Woman’s suffrage bill, granting woman the right to vote, in 1893. A a 766-foot-long petition containing 32,000 signature was unrolled in front of the country’s Parliament to get the job done.
National Council of Women at the inaugural meeting in Christchurch in 1896 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Sheppard continued to work for women’s rights and freedoms. She traveled the world to promote the women’s right to vote, and became president of the National Council of Women of New Zealand
as well as the editor of The White Ribbon
, a New Zealand newspaper owned, managed and published by women.
She died on 13 July 1934, a year after the first woman MP, Labour’s Elizabeth McCombs, entered Parliament. In recent years Sheppard’s contribution to New Zealand’s identity has been acknowledged on the $10 note and a commemorative stamp