'Frocks on bikes': Cyclists take on the trail blazed by Kate Sheppard and her suffragettes

Bicycles have a special place in the history of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. And over the weekend Christchurch cyclists discovered how Kate Sheppard and her suffragettes used bikes to spread the word.

During 1892 and 1893, Sheppard and the suffragettes used bicycles to reach as many women as they could to get them to sign the national petition calling for women’s voting rights.

They rode their bikes into the suburbs and out to rural communities around the country, eventually securing the 32,000 signatures needed to secure the vote.

And on Sunday, 12 riders set off on the Frocks on Bikes tour, making their way round the central Christchurch, and stopping off along the route to visit several sites used by Kate Sheppard as she mobilised women to demand their right to vote.

The riders also visited Sheppard's grave in Addington Cemetery before finishing up with high tea at the newly restored Te Whare Waiutuutu Kate Sheppard House in Ilam.

The 1893 Women's Suffrage Petition comprised 546 sheets of paper, glued together to form one continuous roll 274m long. The roll is now preserved at the National Library of New Zealand, Wellington.

Sixty-five per cent of all New Zealand women over 21 voted in that first election as New Zealand became the first country in which all women exercised the right to vote.

- Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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