EVANS, Kate Milligan
A new biography of Edger, Kate Milligan appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Kate Milligan Evans was born in Abingdon, England, on 6 January 1857, the third daughter of Samuel Edger, a London University graduate and Congregational minister, and of Louisa née Harwood. In 1862 the family emigrated to Northland under the Albertland Co. settlement, and later lived in Auckland, where her father became a well known independent preacher. Kate was educated privately and at Auckland Grammar School. As there was no girls' high school in Auckland at that time, the headmaster of Auckland Grammar School permitted Kate to read with the boys of his highest class. In 1874 she was granted admission to the university branch at Auckland. After an outstanding scholastic record she received her B.A. in 1877 and became the first woman in New Zealand — and possibly in the British Empire — to be granted a degree. She later (1881) graduated M.A. from Canterbury College. In the field of girls' education she immediately became prominent as first assistant of the new Christchurch Girls' High School (1877–82), as headmistress of the girls' secondary school at Nelson (1883–90) and, later, as the head of a private school in Wellington.
A woman of feminist sympathies, Kate Evans became one of the first women preachers in the country and frequently filled the pulpit for her husband, the Rev. William Evans, a Congregational minister whom she married in 1890. She undertook work for the enfranchisement of women, chairing and addressing public meetings. Any reform movement engaged her active support and she was associated particularly with the Women's Christian Temperance Union, the Society for the Protection of Women and Children, and the League of Nations Union. In the former she acted as recording secretary for 15 years and was associate editor of the White Ribbon for 10 years. She died at Dunedin on 6 May 1935 leaving three sons.
Kate Evans's main contribution to New Zealand life was her influence on the feminist movement. Her successful university career gave encouragement to future women students and served as a proof of women's capabilities, not only in higher education, but also in all other spheres previously debarred them.
by Patricia Ann Grimshaw, M.A., Auckland.
- Auckland Star, 8 May 1935 (Obit).