WOMEN’S DAY: Inspirational New Zealand women of all ages

From pioneering science and life-saving discoveries to literary mastery and actions for peace and human rights, the role of women around the world has been of crucial importance. While International Women’s Day is a time to honour all women, it is noteworthy that many inspirational women come with wrinkles and grey hair. These signs of aging are hard won badges of honour. These women have spent decades in their respective fields, living through and creating incredible defining moments.

Written by stannah

8th of March

Taking selfies

Disclaimer: This article contains images of people who have died

The 8th of March is an international day that celebrates the social, economic, scientific, cultural and political achievements of women. International Women’s Day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality and to celebrate ordinary women who have played a determinant role in the history of their countries and communities.

Check out these links to interesting Women’s Day topics below:

Meaning and History of International Women’s Day

According to UNESCO, the first event that triggered what would be the first International Women’s Day was on February 28, 1908, when a group of 15,000 women marched on the streets of New York, protesting for their rights. But it wasn’t until 1945 that the Charter of the United Nations established the first international agreement to state the principle of equality between women and men. The UN celebrated its first official International Women’s Day 42 years ago, on March 8, 1975.

After that, countries across the world have come together on March 8 to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, scientific and political achievements of women.

The main goal of this day is to focus on the role of women in innovation, education and the workplace, in order to foster a more inclusive and egalitarian world. Women all over the world will be recognized for their commitments to their countries and communities and for the inequities they still face in 2017.

In the U.S., women have had the right to vote for less than 100 years. Nowadays, the right to vote is something we take for granted, but it took a great deal of struggle from the women’s suffrage movement to achieve this most basic right. In the 1970s, there was a second wave of protests for equal rights with women fighting for control of their health, sexuality, career and personal life.

The 2017 theme for International Women’s Day is: “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality.”

The importance of Celebrating Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the achievements made, to celebrate acts of courage and determination by both renowned and ordinary women, who have played extraordinary roles in moving the world forward.

We all want to live in a society where women and girls can exercise their choices, free from violence and discrimination. Therefore, it is important to share experiences, spreading the word on good practices that will raise awareness and promote gender policies and strategies that advocate for the end of violence against women.

Did you Know? UNESCO and UN FACTS about International Women’s day

The world is changing and many of these changes have significant implications for women. Despite these new opportunities, we still have a long way to go to meet the goal “Planet 50-50 by 3030”, considering that:

  • 31 million girls of primary school age are not in school (UNESCO, 2013);
  • 35% of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence in their lives (UN, 2015);
  • Nearly 2/3 of illiterate people are women, a proportion that has remained unchanged for two decades (UN, 2015);
  • Less than 4% of CEOs in the world’s largest 500 corporations are women (UN, 2015);
  • Women account for 2/3 of the world’s poorest citizens (UNESCO, 2014);
  • Women are underrepresented in scientific and technological disciplines. Only 29% of the world’s researchers are women (UNESCO, 2014).

If you want to explore more UN facts on where women stand today in the changing world of work, click here.

Inspirational New Zealand Women of All Ages

We are lucky to have had incredible ladies in our country, now and in the past. We’ve made a very small selection of just a few of these amazing women who, in one way or another, changed the world we live in for the better.

We hope you enjoy our selection and get inspired by these women, who are true forces of nature!

Kate Sheppard: Driving Force behind women’s suffrage in New Zealand

Kate Sheppard: Driving Force behind women’s suffrage in New Zealand

Source: By Book written by William Sidney Smith (1852-1929) but unclear whether he was the photographer

Our country wears the proud title of being the first country in the world where women could vote in parliament elections. Kate Sheppard was the leader of the women’s suffrage campaigners in New Zealand, and it was only after several years of effort that she, together with the other campaigners, was able to make the vote for women a reality in 1893. She was born in Liverpool, England and immigrated to New Zealand in 1868. Later, she traveled to England to help the British suffrage movement.

Dame Whina Cooper: Te Whaea o te Motu (“Mother of the Nation”)

Dame Whina Cooper: Te Whaea o te Motu ("Mother of the Nation")

Source: By Christian Heinegg

Dame Whina Cooper, awarded with the Order of New Zealand (ONZ) and The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE), was a beloved Māori elder (kuia) and received the title: “Te Whaea o te Motu (“Mother of the Nation”).  She fought with dedication for Māori land rights and was especially involved in improving living conditions for Māori women. In the 1930s, she was the leader of North Island’s Hokianga district and in the 1950s, she was elected as president of the new Māori Women’s Welfare League. Whina Cooper gained notoriety in 1975 (see picture above) when she led the hīkoi (march), which was called to protest the Māori land alienation, for 1000 kilometres (621 miles) from one end of the North Island to the other. She was 79 years old by then.

Jacinda Ardern: the world’s youngest female leader.

Jacinda Ardern the world’s youngest female leader.

Source: By Governor-General of New Zealand

The world’s youngest female leader! Jacinda Ardern is New Zealand’s 40th Prime Minister since 26th October 2017, and leader of the labour party since August 2017, having only graduated from the University of Waikato in 2001. She started as a researcher in the office of then Prime Minister, Helen Clark, and also worked as policy adviser in the UK for the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. She was only 37 when she took up office and is the world’s second elected head of government to have given birth while in office.

Katherine Mansfield: New Zealand prominent and most famous modernist short story author. 

New Zealand prominent and most famous modernist short story author.

Source: By Original: Unknown Derivative work: Carnby 

Katherine Mansfield was New Zealand’s prominent and most famous modernist short story author. She wrote short stories, poetry, letters, journals and reviews. Her work changed the way short stories were written in the English language. At age 19, she moved to England and became friends with other writers such as D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. She was considered a rebel, and, in her journals, she confessed to feeling alienated in New Zealand and disillusioned because of the repression of the Māori people. She sadly passed away at the age of 34 due to tuberculosis, but she will live on forever through her work.

Jean Batten: Aviatrix who made the first-ever solo flight from England to New Zealand

Jean Batten : Aviatrix who made the first-ever solo flight from England to New Zealand

Back in the 1930s, Jean Batten was the most famous New Zealander! She was celebrated around the world for being an amazing aviator and made a number of record-breaking solo flights across the world, including the first-ever solo flight from England to New Zealand in 1936! She received the Order of the Southern Cross in 1935, after she set a world record flying from England to Brazil, and thus becoming the first person who wasn’t royalty to receive this honour. She was also honoured by local Māori in her birthplace, Rotorua, with the chief’s feather cloak and received the title “Hine-o-te-Rangi” (Daughter of the Skies). Due to her elegance, she also received the lovely nickname: “Garbo of the Skies”.

Lisa Carrington: Multiple Olympic Gold winner

Lisa Carrington

Source: By Olaf Kosinsky – Own work

Lisa Carrington, only 29 years old, is a multi-Olympic gold medallist winner and 5 times world Champion as a flatwater canoer. She won a gold medal in the Women’s K-1 200 meters both in the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics.  She is of Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki and Ngāti Porou descent and had a dream of becoming an Olympic winner ever since she was just 7 years old. Carrington has won several awards, including Sportswomen of the year in 2016, was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and New Zealand’s senior Māori sportswoman and overall Māori sportsperson of the year in November 2012.

We hope you enjoyed this very small selection and are proud of the women that make and have made New Zealand a great country!


Kate Sheppard
 Women’s suffrage in New Zealand
Dame Whina Cooper
10 Inspirational Women From New Zealand
Jacinda Ardern
Katherine Mansfield
Jean Batten