New Zealand is the youngest country on earth - the last major landmass to be discovered. It has a rich and fascinating history, reflecting both our Maori and European heritage. Amazing Maori historic sites and taonga (treasures), some dating back almost a thousand years, are a contrast to many beautiful colonial buildings. New Zealand today is a culturally diverse and fascinating country.
HOME MOTORHOMES WEBCAMS
GREAT NEW ZEALANDER'S
2. Kate Sheppard

KATE SHEPPARD - GUIDING LIGHT TOWARDS CIVIC FREEDOM FOR WOMEN

There were five attempts between 1878 and 1892 to pass laws granting New Zealand women the right to vote, before a sixth succeeded in 1893. Male politicians such as Sir John Hall and Sir Julius Vogel led the early attempts but came to realise the only way to succeed was through a well-directed public campaign to create sufficient pressure to break down the barriers of political resistance.

Kate Sheppard, who joined the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1885, became the guiding light of the campaign that was to earn New Zealand recognition as the first country in the world where women could vote in national elections. All that separates, whether of race, class, creed or sex, is inhuman and must be overcome. She had a clear vision of the kind of society she would like to live in. “All that separates, whether of race, class, creed or sex, is inhuman and must be overcome” was her creed. And she matched her vision with political skill, accomplished organising ability and boundless energy. She made speeches, wrote pamphlets and newsletters and assembled an army of 600 suffragists to fight for women’s political rights.

But the most powerful weapon in her armory was the political petition. Sir John Hall persuaded her that women would always be stymied by some spurious reasoning or technical logjam in the corridors of power unless they could find a way to make their voices heard loudly enough to be irresistible.

Sheppard famously organised three petitions to support the bills for female suffrage in 1891, 1892 and 1893. The first had 9000 signatures, the second 19,000 and the third 32,000, which was nearly one quarter of the adult women in the country. The petitions broke like ever more powerful waves on the ramparts of the male bastion of Parliament and eventually broke through, overcoming even the resistance of Premier Richard “King Dick” Seddon, a man who did not like to be thwarted. It was a great victory for women in New Zealand and also a beacon of hope for women around the world.

“The news is being flashed far and wide,” wrote Sheppard, “and before our earth has revolved on its axis, every civilised community within reach of the electric wires will have received the tidings that civic freedom has been granted to the women of New Zealand.”

Despite the justified excitement of the moment, Sheppard was well aware that women still did not have full civic freedom. They may have won the vote but it would be a further 26 years before they could stand for Parliament and 39 years before the first woman MP took her seat in the House. It was as though the enormous energy expended in breaking down resistance to female suffrage had left the idea of full rights for women becalmed for decades. But in time the momentum picked up again and 100 years after women won the vote, it was impossible to imagine a Cabinet without women ministers.

TRAVEL TO NEW ZEALAND