Girl Power.

  • Fri, 5, May, 2017 - 5:00:AM

Nine kickass Kiwi women who happen to be immigrants

Image: The Kate Sheppard National Memorial in Christchurch / Bernard Spragg / Wikimedia Commons

Most of us know that Aotearoa’s past (and present) is filled with fierce women who’ve done (and are doing) some pretty amazing things. But did you know some of the most famous women in the Land of the Long White Cloud were/are immigrants?

A kickass Kiwi woman is a kickass Kiwi woman – no matter where she’s from. Here are just a few of them.

Kate Sheppard

Before she became the suffragist icon that we know her as today, Kate Sheppard immigrated with her mother and siblings to Christchurch from England. Considering she was instrumental in helping Aotearoa become the first country in the world where women had the right to vote in 1893, it’s a pretty good thing she did.

Eleanor Catton

The author and 2013 Man Booker Prize winner (for her novel The Luminaries) grew up in Christchurch. But she spent the first six years of her life in Canada.

Harriet Russell Morison

The tailor, trade unionist, suffragist and public servant who played a key role in the battle for women getting the right to vote was born in Ireland. She immigrated to New Zealand with her parents when she was a child, settling first in Dunedin.

Irene van Dyk

The legendary netball star was born in South Africa, and even captained the South African netball team, but she is best known for her long career as a Silver Fern. She was the New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year in 2003, and remains to this day the most capped professional netball player not just in New Zealand, but in the world.

Elizabeth Yates

The first female mayor anywhere in the British Empire, Yates served as the mayor of Onehunga in 1894. But before she set her mind to trail blazing, she immigrated to New Zealand from Scotland with her family.

Aunt Daisy

The famed mid-twentieth century broadcaster came to New Zealand from London with her family in 1891. Appearing on the radio until her death in 1963 at the age of 83, she was a Member of the Order of the British Empire for services in the fields of entertainment and broadcasting – and could deliver bulletins at a blistering 202 words per minute.

Anna Paquin

The Academy Award-winning Kiwi actress was born in the Canadian province of Manitoba, but brought up in Wellington.

Ilse von Randow

A famous weaver, von Randow was born in the German city of Giessen. She later moved to China, but fled during a bloody battle between nationalists and communists known as the Shanghai Campaign. She arrived in Auckland as a refugee with her children in April 1952.

Julie Anne Genter

The Green Party list MP was born in Rochester, Minnesota. She lived in the US and France before immigrating to Aotearoa in 2006.

From the right to vote, to an Academy Award, to a Man Booker Prize, Kiwi women who weren’t born here have been bringing pride to New Zealand for generations. We’re lucky to be able to claim them as ours.


  • Women /
  • Aotearoa /
  • New Zealand /
  • Immigration /
  • Kate Sheppard /
  • Eleanor Catton /
  • Ilse von Randow /
  • Julie Anne Genter /
  • Harriet Russell Morison /
  • Anna Paquin /
  • Irene van Dyk /
  • Elizabeth Yates /
  • Aunt Daisy /

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