Kate Sheppard


Democracy - Kate Sheppard

In New Zealand the suffragist movement was, for better or worse, entangled with the issue of temperance. Many feared the establishment of voting rights for women was a vote for prohibition, a view that was not helped by the suffragettes themselves, who organised themselves under the banner of the 'Women's Christian Temperance Union' (WCTU). The main concern of the WCTU was that excessive use of alcohol was undermining the family unit, and further, that the woman's work for the economic well being of the family was being frittered away by dad drinking all his pay. Of course, the idea of giving women the vote wasn't limited to this one issue.

The WCTU campaigned for equal divorce laws, raising the age of consent (for sexual intercourse) from the prevailing 12 years and pre-school education. They were also vocal in their opposition to the wearing of corsets, which they saw as symbolising the restriction of women.

Katherine Malcolm (b. 1847, d. 1934), more familiar to us today by her foreshortened married name, Kate Sheppard, was one of the leaders of the WCTU, and therefore, of the suffragette movement.  Born in England, but moving here as a young woman, she was regarded as a highly intelligent and well-educated woman.  She also had a supportive husband, who gave her the encouragement, opportunity and financial means to travel the country expounding her views on women’s rights.


1893 suffrage petition
Kate Sheppard adorns the NZ $10 note
Kate Sheppard
Speaks for itself...
Suffrage cartoons: cleaning up politics
Kate Sheppard
Kate Sheppard
Kate Sheppard, about 1905