NanoPoblano 2017 – Day 30 – Women Who Made History In New Zealand

NanoPoblano 2017 – Day 30 – Women Who Made History In New Zealand

#NanoPoblano 2017


Kate Sheppard – photographed in 1905

Photo Credit

One of the most important women in New Zealand History was Kate Sheppard who achieved the rights for women to vote in 1893, where a partition was signed by 31,000 people which was a great achievement in those early years of New Zealand’s developments for the future of women.

Kate was born in Liverpool England

Katherine Wilson “Kate” Sheppard (10 March 1847–13 July 1934) was the most prominent member of New Zealand Women’s Suffrage also the country’s most famous suffragette.

New Zealand was the first self-governing country to grant women the right to vote in 1893 when all women over the age of 21 were permitted to vote in parliamentary elections.

Kate Sheppard ten dollar note

Kate Sheppard on the New Zealand Ten-dollar note.

How New Zealand Women achieved the vote

A short video describing how New Zealand Women achieved the vote in 1893. Created for the St Pauls Collegiate School History Department Wiki.

Women win the Vote – NZ 1893

1919 Women Eligible for Parliament

In 1919 women won the right to be elected to the House of Representatives. The law was changed late in 1919, and with only three weeks notice, three women stood for Parliament in 1919.

They were Ellen Melville in Grey Lynn, Rosetta Baume in Parnell, and Mrs. Aileen Cooke in Thames NZ. Ellen Melville stood for the Reform Party and came second. She stood for Parliament several more times, but while generally polling well she never won a seat.

  • Ellen Melville stood for the Reform Party and came second. She stood for Parliament several more times, but while generally polling well she never won a seat. NB: In 1913, Ellen Melville became the first woman to be elected to a municipal authority in New Zealand, gaining a seat on the Auckland City Council.
  • Rosetta Lulah Baume (1871–22 February 1934) was a New Zealand teacher, feminist and community leader.From 1918 to 1920 she was a vice president of the revived National Council of Women of New Zealand and in 1919 she was a founder and committee member of the Auckland Women’s Club.
  • Born Alleen Anna Maria Douglas (later Garmson, Wrack, Cooke), she died in Auckland on the 30th May 1951. Cooke was the first lady to contest Thames Electoral seat 1919

1933 First Women in Parliament

Elizabeth McCombs

Elizabeth McCombs ca. 1933. Photo Credit 

Elizabeth Reid McCombs

Among the causes, she promoted where, equal pay for women, which still has not been achieved

Increasingly poor health made it difficult for McCombs to participate fully in politics. She died in Christchurch on 7 June 1935 aged 61, less than two years after entering parliament.

In her Lyttelton electorate, she was succeeded by her son Terry McCombs

Terry McCombs, who was the Minister of Education in the First Labour Government from 1947 to 1949. Terry McCombs held the Lyttelton seat until 1951, concluding a 38-year family hold on the seat.

She had Four children (two were adopted)

1947 First Woman Cabinet Member – Mabel Howard


Photo Credit  Mabel Howard

Mabel Bowden Howard (18 April 1894 – 23 June 1972) She never married, had no children. Died at the age of 78 years old.

  • In 1933, at the age of 39, she became the first woman to become secretary of a predominantly male union in New Zealand.
  • In 1943, Mabel Howard was elected Member of Parliament for Christchurch East at a by-election, becoming the fifth female MP.
  • She won the new electorate of Sydenham in 1946 and held this seat until her retirement in 1969.
  • Only four years after entering Parliament in April 1947, she was appointed the minister of health and Minister in charge of Child Welfare, becoming the first woman to serve as a Cabinet minister in a Commonwealth country outside of Britain.

Interesting Fact (Which I remember well)

Mabel_Howard (1)

The photo above tells it all – She was remembered for waving two large pairs of bloomers in parliament in 1954 in support of her successful campaign to have clothing sizes standardized.

First Women Government General of New Zealand – Dame Catherine Tizard

Dame Catherine Anne Tizard (née Maclean; born 4 April 1931) was Mayor of Auckland City and the16th Governor-General of New Zealand, the first woman to hold either office.

Dame Catherine Tizard

First Women Chief District Court Judge of New Zealand – Silvia Cartwright.

Silvia Cartwright

Silvia Cartwright. Photo Credit 

Dame Silvia Rose Cartwright born 7 November 1943.

In 1989, she became the first female Chief District Court Judge, and in 1993 she was the first woman to be appointed to the High Court.

She was the eighteenth Government General of New Zealand that was in office from 4 April 2001 – 4 August 2006

Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright

Jenny Shipley – First Female Prime Minister of New Zealand


Photo Credit

Dame Jenny Shipley, (born 4 February 1952).

Jenny Shipley Joined the National Party in 1975.

She successfully stood for the party in the Ashburton electorate in the 1987 election.

Entering parliament at the age of 35.

In 1997, the then-current Prime Minister Jim Bolger lost the support of the National Party and was replaced by Jenny Shipley, making her the first female Prime Minister of New Zealand

Dane Jenny Shipley served as the 36 Prime Minister of New Zealand from December 1997 to December 1999.

She was the first woman to hold office, also the only woman to serve as Parliamentary leader of the National Party of New Zealand.

Represented the Ashburton electorate until her retirement from politics in 2002, though it was renamed Rakaia in 1990.

In the 1999 election, the Labour Party led by Helen Clark defeated the National Party.

Jenny Shipley continued to lead the National Party until October 2001.

She suffered a heart attack in 2000.

She retired from Parliament in 2002.

Jenny Shipley accepted a damehood on 14 August 2009

Since 2009, Shipley has chaired the Genesis Power Board.

She is also a member of the Club de Madrid, a group of more than 80 former Presidents and Prime Ministers of democratic states, which works to strengthen democratic leadership and governance worldwide.

Shipley chairs Global Women NZ and gives her time to a number of causes. She is Patron of Sir Edmund Hillary Outdoor Pursuits Centre and the NZ Heart Foundations “Go Red for Women”.

Helen Clark – Longest Serving Female Prime Minister

Helen Clark

Helen Clark in 2010. Photo Credit 

Right Honorable Helen Clark, born 26 February 1950.

In 1981 she was elected to Parliament for the safe Labour seat of Mount Albert, a position she held until her resignation in 2009.

In 1987, Clark became a Cabinet Minister in the Fourth Labour Government, led by David Lange (1984–1989), Geoffrey Palmer (1989–1990) and Mike Moore (1990), first as Minister of Housing and as Minister of Conservation, then as Minister of Health and later as Deputy Prime Minister.

In 1989 Helen Clark became the first female Deputy Prime Minister, she held the position for a year.

In 1999, Helen Clark became the second Female Prime Minister of New Zealand, and the first woman to gain the position at an election, as the Prime Minister, leader of the Labour Party of New Zealand.

Helen Clark was the 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand, serving three consecutive terms from 1999 to 2008. She was the first woman elected, at a general election, as the Prime Minister, and was the fifth longest-serving person to hold that office.

She has been Administrator of the United Nations Development Program UNDP, the third-highest UN position, since 17 April 2009

Helen Clark first gained election to the New Zealand House of Representatives in the 1981 general election as one of four women who entered Parliament on that occasion.

In winning the Mount Albert electorate in Auckland, she became the second woman elected to represent an Auckland electorate, and the seventeenth woman elected to the New Zealand Parliament.

Labour government was defeated in the 2008 election.

She resigned from Parliament in April 2009 from her Mount Albert electorate and was replaced by David Shearer, as the Labour Party leader, to take up the post of Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and is the first woman to lead the organization.

UNDP operates in 177 countries, working with nations on their own solutions to global and national development challenges.

Forbes magazine ranked her 20th most powerful woman in the world in 2006 and 50th in 2012. In 2014, she rose to the 23rd position

Helen Clark on Women’s Political Empowerment

Celebrating New Zealand Women – Everywoman Conference 2011 – Our Place

C3 Everywoman Conference 2011 made a tribute to honour the pioneering History Makers and modern day women who with their passion, creativity, determination, and intellect have made a difference in our world.

Now Prime Minister of New Zealand (2017) is Jacinda  Ardern 


Photo Credit   Jacinda Ardern Prime Minister of New Zealand 2017

I haven’t studied this new young lady, if you are interested here is a link.

Special thanks to all the women who have contributed to making New Zealand history That I haven’t written about.

God Defend New Zealand – (with lyrics)

A final quote for NanoPoblano 2017 Day 30.

“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” 

― Franz Kafkapepper2017


  1. What a superb post, Elsie! I know nearly nothing about New Zealand and it is wonderful to hear about women’s success. Most impressive is seeing a woman on paper money! We have no women on ours in the US. Susan B. Anthony was put on a coin, as was Sacajawea but people complained about mixing them up with quarters so they disappeared. Thanks again for sharing a part of your history!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting, I think the world one day will have many more women taking the top post that men hold these days.
      Things are changing fast these days, not before time though, women and equal pay is a must for a start.
      All the best, hope you are having a great day.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Elsie, this is a fantastic post packed with information and detail. My history thesis was the Suffragettes so I was so interested to learn how the right to vote was achieved in New Zealand and then the huge steps won by women thereafter. A terrific quote from Kafka to finish this superlative post. Well done and a joy to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Annika, for your time in reading this post, it is quite long.
      Hopefully, it gives credit to the women that help develop New Zealand to what it is today.
      Helen Clark has been a wonderful ambassador, I have talked to her, she is a very easy person to understand, I admire her.
      Blessings, hope you have a wonderful day.

      Liked by 1 person

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