All about Kate Sheppard

By Nina Krauss

Who is Kate Sheppard?

Kate Sheppard was a young women who made it possible for ladies in New Zealand to vote in politics. With her help New Zealand was the first country to fully change to these rights. Without her change and help women might still not be able to vote in politics today.

When she was just 15 years old, her father died. Her mother then took her and her brother as saloon passengers to New Zealand 6 years later. In February 1869, they finally arrived on the Matoaka at Lytttelton. They moved to Katherine's sister Mary Beath, in Christchurch. When Katherine was 24 years old, she married Walter Allen Sheppard, a grocer and general merchant. They married in Christchurch on the 21st of July 1871. On the 8th of October 1880, their son Douglas was born. He was their only child. Kate Sheppard, during the early years of her marriage, regularly attended Trinity Congregational Church and gave away lots of her time for bible classes and fund-raising. Kate Sheppard then became secretary of the Lady Association and was involved with other members of her family in temperance work. In 1885, Katherine became a founding member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in New Zealand. The Union quickly realised, that social and legislative reforms concerning temperance and the welfare of women and children would be easier to provide if women were allowed to vote and be represented in the Parliament.

In 1887, within the local Unions, franchise departments were formed and Kate Sheppard was appointed national superintendent of the legislation department and the franchise. Kate Sheppard continued with lots of big achievements but also with lots of responsibilities. One of her big achievements were in 1893 when she received a telegram from Richard Seddon, the premier, conceding victory to the women.

The years Kate Sheppard was most active as a political leader for social reform were from 1887 to 1902. During these years she was franchise and legislation superintendent of the WCTU, in the Canterbury Women's Institute she was convener of the economics department and she was the president or vice president of the NCW from 1896 to 1908.

Kate Sheppard's son, Douglas, married Wilhelmina Sievwright on the 29th of June 1908 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Wilhelmina was the daughter of Kate's friend and co-worker, Margaret Sievwright. Unfortunately Douglas Sheppard died on 16th of March 1910, just 2 years after he got married. 5 years later, Kate's husband also died, in Bath, England on the 24th of July 1915.

On August the 15th 1925, Kate Sheppard, aged 78, married William Sidney Lovell-Smith. He was a 72 year old printer and author of 'Outlines of the women's franchise movement in New Zealand'. He died 4 years later. Kate Sheppard's only grandchild, Margaret Isobel Sheppard died in 1930.

Kate Lovell-Smith or Kate Sheppard, died on the 13th of July 1934 in Christchurch, Riccarton at her home. She was buried with her mother, a brother and a sister in the Addington Cemetery. Her death was reported in the 'Christchurch Times' in simple appreciation: 'A great woman has gone, whose name will remain an inspiration to the daughters of New Zealand while our history indures'.

4 Significances about Kate Sheppard

  1. Kate Sheppard helped women in New Zealand to have the right to vote in politics. Women got a higher place or position in politics because of that. If this action wouldn't have happened, women today would maybe still not have the right to vote in politics.
  2. She made it possible for New Zealand to be the first country to change it fully for all women to vote in politics. At that time, all of the women living in New Zealand were able to vote and take up opportunities in politics. It was a great change not only for New Zealand but also for other countries, who wanted to be like New Zealand. New Zealand was an example for them and they looked up to us at that time. If New Zealand wouldn't have made this change, then there might still be countries today who wouldn't have this right, for women to vote.
  3. Kate Sheppard's son, Douglas, was only 30 years old when he died. Both of her husbands died before she died. Her only grandchild also died at young age. But that didn't make her quit. She continued with her job and responsibilities. Even though she went through these ups and downs, she continued. I'm sure she had a few weak days around that time but she didn't stop. She wanted to make this change for New Zealand and for the world. She stayed strong through tough times. We can learn from her. If we are going through tough times during an important part of our life, we should take her as an example.
  4. Kate Sheppard is an example for all of us. We can change rights today if we are willing to take up the challenge and make a change for our country or maybe even for the world. Lives could be greatly affected today or in the future, by you! Make a change!
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