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Pioneering woman scholar honoured

Hon Nikki Kaye
Minister of Education
Hon Paul Goldsmith
Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment

19 May 2017 Media Statement

Pioneering woman scholar honoured

Education Minister Nikki Kaye unveiled a commemorative photograph at Auckland Grammar School this morning, dedicated to New Zealand’s first ever female university graduate, Kate Edger.

“It was a privilege to acknowledge Kate, who was a real trailblazer and a passionate advocate for women at a time when opportunities for women were much more limited than they are today,” says Ms Kaye.

“In 1874, with no secondary schooling for girls available in Auckland, Kate was granted permission to attend Auckland College and Grammar School, now Auckland Grammar School.

“Kate was 16 years old at the time and was the only female in a class of boys. She had previously been taught at home by her father.

“She gained a University Scholarship and went on to achieve success at university and in her subsequent teaching career, as foundation headmistress of Nelson College for Girls then running a private school for secondary girls from her family home in Mt Victoria, Wellington.

“Kate was also actively involved in the New Zealand Society for the Protection of Women and Children, and the Suffrage Movement.

“We have much to owe women like Kate, who changed society through their convictions and determination, and who made the road easier for those who follow in their footsteps.”

Kate Edgar became New Zealand’s first female university graduate in 1877, when she completed a Bachelor of Arts in Latin and Mathematics at the University of New Zealand.

“She didn’t just break new ground in New Zealand, she was also the first woman in the British Empire to receive a BA degree,” says Mr Goldsmith.

“After completing her BA, Kate went on to graduate with a Masters Degree from Canterbury College in 1882, and in 1935 she was awarded a King’s Jubilee Silver Medal.

“Today, women make up around 58 per cent of students in tertiary education, so it’s hard to imagine a time when they were a small minority amongst their male peers.

“We owe a great deal to women like Kate who through their efforts have helped make the world a much better place.”

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