When thinking of women’s suffrage the image which often spring to mind is of supporters chaining themselves to railings, throwing themselves in front of race horses or staging hunger strikes. But the attractive likeness of Kate Sheppard which has graced our $10 note since 1991, doesn’t give that impression.
In fact, her weapons of choice were logic and reason. The first woman to operate a newspaper in New Zealand, she promoted the cause by organising petitions and public meetings, by skillful writing and public speaking and by developing contacts with prominent politicians of the day.
Her efforts culminated in a petition of 30,000 signatures which she pasted up onto sheets of wallpaper and presented to parliament. Despite the opposition of opponents, many of them from the liquor industry, such support could no longer be discounted and women gained the right to vote in the 1893 election. Little wonder she has been rated as the second most influential New Zealander of all time.