Kate Sheppard House. Image from GoogleMaps, 2021.
1888. Walter and Kate Sheppard built an eight-room kauri and slate-roofed villa on their two acres purchased in 1887. The address is 83 Clyde Road, and the village was built in a rural suburb of Christchurch called Fendalton. It was located on the same street as properties owned by Kate's brother Frank Malcolm and her sisters Isabel May and Marie Beath. Today, the suburb is now called Ilam, and the historic site borders the University of Canterbury.
1891. Kate began regularly reporting on the women's suffrage movement through the women's page in The Prohibitionist, published by the Sydenham Prohibition League. Since 1887 Kate had served as the national superintendent for the department of Franchise and Legislation for the Women's Christian Temperance Union of New Zealand – the first national organisation established by and run specifically by women. Together with her sister Isabel, she had been using her home as an office for their shared interests in women's rights activism.
1893. At her dining room table in this house, one of the women's suffrage petition rolls was pasted together before it was sent to the House of Representatives in Wellington. This particular roll contained almost 32,000 signatures. Here in the garden, Kate received a telegram on 19 September 1893 informing her of the reform of the Electoral Law in which women won the right to vote in general elections.
1895. As the founding editor, Kate led the effort to publish the first issue of The White Ribbon, the official organ of the Women's Christian Temperance Union of New Zealand. She collected at her home all the WCTUNZ branch reports and edited temperance stories, health advice, as well as compiled reports from delegations to government ministers, from public meetings.
1896. Kate was elected president of the newly created National Council of Women of New Zealand at the inaugural conference held in Christchurch. Perhaps the convention's garden party (details of which were not recorded) was held at her home.
1902. Kate and Walter went with their son Douglas to live in England, and the house was sold on 3 April to John Joseph Dougall, a city councillor who was later elected Mayor of Christchurch.
1993. In honour of the centenary of women's suffrage in New Zealand, a group of Christchurch women (including those in the NCWNZ local branch) established two memorials to Sheppard: the Kate Sheppard National Memorial, on the banks of the Avon River, and the Kate Sheppard Memorial Trust Award, an annual award to women seeking further education, study, research or training in areas which are of value in the community.
2002. Gavin McLean’s book, 100 Historic Places in New Zealand, included the Kate Sheppard House as #66 in his list of historic places to visit.
2010. Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga assigned the site as a Category 1 historic place on the Heritage New Zealand List/Rārangi Korero
2015. Christchurch City Council crafted a Heritage Assessment report and included the site as part of their District Heritage Plan.
2018. The Crown purchased the house and gardens (4321 square metres and which by then included a tennis court, swimming pool, stream and artisan well) for $4.5 million. The previous owners admitted they had no idea of the site's historical importance.
2019. Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga (HNZPT) began caring for the house and gardens. The government commissioned LOC Construction Ltd. to begin work on the site. They also worked with public history experts and the Building Intelligence Group to convert the front four rooms and hallway of the house, which contain the most intact heritage fabric, to feature as a high-quality visitor attraction. In the rest of the house, a partnership between the University of Canterbury and HNZPT will use the site for seminars and presentations as well as academic research.
2020. The Kate Sheppard House museum was officially opened by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on 15 December. The ceremony included Sheppard’s great-great-great nieces Barbara Bowie and Christine Kershaw. Today the Kate Sheppard House is recognised as a Learning Destination with Children's University Australasia.
2022. Te Whare Waiutuutu Kate Sheppard House won silver in the Heritage and Restoration category of the New Zealand Commercial Project Awards. The winners included LOC Construction Limited, and their project partners - Modello Architecture limited (Architect/Designer), Ruamoko Solutions (Engineer), and The Building Intelligence Group (Contract Management).
To read more articles from The Circular (issue 636), click on the tag below.