Henry ThompsonPath through Cemetery headstonescross

Bringing Linwood Cemetery Alive!

About the Friend’s Suffrage Project

In 2012, the Trust had help from an intern from Canterbury University; Olivia Kant.  We set her on a project to identify those buried in Linwood Cemetery who signed the Suffrage Petition of 1893.  This had recently been made available on the internet.  The petition has approximately 24,000 signatures from women aged 21 years or older of which 4432 were from Canterbury.

“Suffrage” and “franchisement” are terms used to mean the right to vote in political elections. “Emancipation” means being set free from legal, social, or political restrictions.  This is a key principal of a democratic society where one has a right to form and challenge decisions made on your behalf by elected representatives and also to become an elected representative.  In New Zealand, women had to campaign to have the right to vote which was only granted in 1893 – over 40 years since the First Four Ships arrived in Lyttelton.

By painstakingly cross referencing each Cantabrian on the petition with the CCC Database for Linwood Cemetery, Olivia was able to identfy 250 people (approx 5% of those from Canterbury on the petition) as being buried in Linwood Cemetery.  She was unsure of a further 390 women who would need deeper investigation due to the vagary of their name.  It was common practice up until maybe the 1990s, for a married woman to be known by her husband’s name and call herself by that name as well – so, for example Kate SHEPPARD, would be known as Mrs Walter SHEPPARD, or, in writing, Mrs W. SHEPPARD.  This often makes identifying women, even in labelled photographs or documents, a challenge.

Olivia is slowly putting the detail of her findings hereContact us if your Linwood Cemetery ancestor signed the suffrage petition so we can ensure they are acknowledged on this list.

A Bit About New Zealand Women Getting The Vote

New Zealanders are reminded they belong to the “first self-governing country to legislate for universal female franchise.” (Coney, 1993) every time they see the portrait of Kate SHEPPARD on the NZ$10 note.  Click here for further information about Kate SHEPPARD.

Maybe these days, and over 120 years on, it is a challenge for us to imagine a time in NZ when girls did not have secondary education (first allowed in 1871), free primary education (allowed from 1877), or allowed to graduate from University (1877) and were regarded for purposes of citizenship as having the same decision making ability “as children, lunatics and criminals.”  Children were legally their father’s property, women their husband’s.  Women could not vote, but women in business employed men – who legally could.

The early settlement of New Zealand was mainly by men; those on the whaling ships and subsequenty those drawn to the Otago goldfields.  SAUNDERS was quoted by Kate Sheppard as calling them “scenes of almost inhumane vice and wickedness” (ed Mears, p.220).  The abuse of alcohol was a huge social problem of the time, and those recognising that were calling for the prohibition (banning) of alcohol following the work of the temperence (alcohol-free society) groups first established in the United States and England.  To this end it was also believed that if women were allowed to vote, the vote for prohibition would be significantly increased as well as there being a pressure to “clean up” the politics of the time.

Although women had the vote on some small islands and territories as early as 1838, the first public advocate for votes for women in New Zealand is regarded as Mary Ann MULLER of Nelson who, from 1869 wrote under the pen name of “Femina”.  Despite constant campaigning by HALL and SAUNDERS, the proposal for women to receive the vote was dismissed on many grounds.  Two petitions supporting a woman’s right to vote were submitted to parliament during 1887 without effect, leading Kate SHEPPARD to publish “Ten Reasons Why the Women of New Zealand Should Vote” which was sent to all the politicians of the day who, of course, were all male.

It took a further 6 years of campaigning and disappointments for the women of New Zealand to get the vote, the achievement on 19th September 1893 being “hailed internationally as a signal victory in the world-wide struggle for electoral rights for women”, (Coney, 1993).  Linwood Cemetery had been open for 9 years by this time. Only NZ, Australia, Finland and Norway and 11 States of America had granted women the right to vote by the First World War (1914-1918).

Linwood Cemetery has a strong connection with the suffrage movement.  Kate SHEPPARD and most of her family are buried in Addington Cemetery, but members of her second husband’s family, the LOVELL-SMITHs are interred in Block 32 Plot 96.  Kate married William Sidney LOVELL- SMITH in 1925 when she was 78.  He was a long time friend and campaigned alongside her.

Along the main path to the PEACOCK Mausoleum at Block 32 Plot 198, there is a double plot with an imposing black headstone.  It is eye-catching for it’s inscription,

” A cause might be despised, obscure,

rejected, He not only helped it all the

same he helped it all the more, and in

the dark, and stormy days of unfriendly

truth he was always in the front.”

It is the burial place of Alfred SAUNDERS (1820-1905) an early pioneer, who arrived in NZ in 1844, and subsequently became a local politician and who, along with Sir John HALL of Christchurch, at every opportunity championed women getting the vote.  SAUNDERS served on the Nelson Provincial Council in 1855 then, when the political structure of New Zealand changed, became the area’s local Member of Parliament (MP).  He had moved to Christchurch by 1872 and become the MP for Cheviot, Lincoln & Selwyn also serving on the House of Representatives.   SAUNDERS was a close friend of Walter SHEPPARD who was on the Christchurch City Council as early as 1868.  Walter married Kate MALCOLM on 21st July 1871.  It is likely that SAUNDERS empassioned Kate in his cause.

SAUNDERS was noted as “… strenuous, imbued with a great public spirit, and ever anxious to see our political and social life lived on right lines…” (Sir Robert Stout quoted in Tales of a Pioneer p224).  In a paper he wrote in 1886 (only 2 years after Linwood Cemetery opened) SAUNDERS summed up his opinion;
“But what can we say of the unqualified assertion that ‘marriage is to a woman what a profession is to a man?’ We need not enlarge upon, or even point out the very obvious fact that all women are not married, nor the equally obvious one that a considerable proportion of those that are would have been much better off in some other position of life. We have not the slightest wish to prevent women from marrying; but we cannot entirely ignore the education and happiness of those who may not desire, or may not be called on, to fill that station in life.” …”Where all the essential conditions of mutual happiness do not present themselves, woman is often the chief sufferer, and, as she values her own peace of mind, we would counsel her to aim so to shape her course in life that she may never be compelled, as a mater of convenience, to a friendless, joyless, heartless union for life. We need not descend to argue that she can be happy and useful in other walks of life….”
…”We often hear from them (men) that good wives and mothers are a very valuable and sometimes scarce commodity. We find no fault with them for entertaining or even for expressing such opinion; but, as good husbands and fathers are, in some countries, quite as scarce as good wives and mothers, we cannot wish to see women cut off from every other resource and compelled to look on marriage as their only profession.”

SAUNDERS wrote a History of New Zealand based on his personal memories which was published in 1898 the same year of his wife’s death aged 69.  He died 7 years later in 1905 aged 85 years.


Saunders, Alfred; Tales of a Pioneer; Cadsonbury Publications; Christchurch;2003. (ed. Lyn Meares) first published 1927 by L M Isitt Ltd. ISBN 1-877151-87-4 (pages 190 – 223)

Coney, Sandra; Standing In The Sunshine; A History of New Zealand Women Since They Won the Vote; Penguin Books; Auckland; 1993.

Regional Women’s Decade Committee 1975-1985; Canterbury Women Since 1893; Pegasus Press; Christchurch; 1979

© Friends of Linwood Cemetery (2015)

Page created 01 March 2015  and reviewed 23 December 2015 by Alexandra