Heroes of Progress: Kate Sheppard - Deepstash
Kate Sheppard

She is the world's first successful suffragette. Her work and petitioning of New Zealand's parliament is the reason that the nation became the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote.

After New Zealand embraced universal suffrage in 1893, Sheppard inspired successful suffrage movements in other parts of the world.

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  • Kate Sheppard was born on March 10, 1847, in Liverpool, England.
  • After the death of her father in 1862, she lived with her uncle in Nairn.
  • Her uncle, a minister of the Free Church of Scotland, taught her the values of Christian socialism that she always remembered. She possessed an extensive knowledge of both science and law.
  • In the late 1860s, Sheppard moved to Christchurch, New Zealand with her mother and sister.
  • Sheppard befriended Alfred Sauders, a politician and prominent temperance activist who influenced her ideas on women's suffrage.

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In the late 1880s, Sheppard began drafting and promoting petitions to New Zealand's parliament that would prevent women from being employed as barmaids.

It was rejected by parliament, and she became convinced that politicians would continue to reject petitions put forward by women, as long as women did not have the right to vote.

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By 1888, Sheppard became the President of the Christchurch branch of the New Zealand Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). She quickly became a prominent figure of the women's suffrage movement, and hosted political events across New Zealand.

In 1891, Sheppard started making parliamentary petitions to persuade politicians to support the vote for women.

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  • In 1891, Sheppard created a petition with 10,085 signatures.
  • John Hall, a supporter of Sheppard, presented her petition to parliament with the proposed amendment to the existing Electoral Bill that would allow women to vote. It passed in the House of Representatives but failed in the Upper House.
  • Sheppard's next petition had 20,274 signatures, but it failed again in the Upper House.
  • The third petition contained 31,872 signatures, the largest petition the New Zealand parliament had ever received. The Electoral Bill passed, and the enfranchisement of women was signed into law in 1893.

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Seeing the success of the suffrage movement in New Zealand, woman's suffrage groups around the world started to follow in her footsteps, copying her tactics with enormous success.

Australia granted women the right to vote in 1902, Finland in 1906, Norway in 1913. The trend continued long after Sheppard's lifetime.

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