Kate Sheppard’s House

Kate Sheppard House Kate Sheppard House Kate Sheppard House Kate Sheppard House

Kate Sheppard’s House (1888)

A suffrage pioneer

In the 1890s ‘first-wave feminism’ made significant gains for New Zealand women. Traditionally, the highpoint is the attainment of women’s suffrage in 1893, when New Zealand, starting its long tradition of patting itself on the back for being a social laboratory, claimed credit for being the first nation to let women vote in national elections. The picky might observe that we were still a colony and historian James Belich cautions against over-emphasising the suffrage elite, replacing Great Men with Great Women, as it were. Suffrage has to be seen in context with late Victorian women’s other gains. Elizabeth Yates of Onehunga became the British Empire’s first elected female mayor, women's organisations proliferated and women began to enter some professions. The Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1894, the Married Women’s Property Act 1884 and the Divorce Act 1898 also improved their lot.

But no amount of revisionism can dethrone Liverpool-born Kate Sheppard (1847-1934) and her supporters, who included former premier Sir John Hall. Kate Malcolm, who had arrived in Christchurch as a young woman, married merchant Walter Sheppard and, like Rutherford Waddell’s supporters, came to the franchise campaign through church-based activities such as the temperance movement.

Walter and Kate moved into their new house at 83 Clyde Rd, Fendalton, early in 1888. It would be Kate’s home during those eventful years, a comfortable, slate-roofed wooden villa set well back from the road in what was then a more rural suburb.

Still privately owned, the house and gardens are now also used for public functions. Sheppard adorns the $10 note and a street near Parliament was renamed after her, but her most impressive public memorial is Margriet Windhausen’s massive bronze Kate Sheppard National Memorial, unveiled at Oxford Terrace beside the Avon in 1993 by New Zealand’s first female governor-general, Dame Catherine Tizard. Here, as resolutely as Iron Curtain icons, suffragists Sheppard, Amey Daldy, Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia, Ada Wells, Harriet Morison and Helen Nicol step fearlessly into the future, behind their electoral petition.

Further information

This site is item number 66 on the History of New Zealand in 100 Places list.



  • Judith Devaliant, Kate Sheppard, Penguin, Auckland, 1992
  • Jill Pierce, The suffrage trail, National Council of Women, New Zealand, Wellington, 1995

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