Kate Edger

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Kate Edger
Kate-Edger principal.jpg
BornJanuary 6, 1857
DiedMay 6, 1935
NationalityNew Zealand
EducationAuckland College and Grammar School
EmployerNelson College for Girls
Known forfirst NZ Woman graduate
Spouse(s)William Albert Evan
Parent(s)Samuel Edger
RelativesGeraldine Hemus (niece)

Kate Milligan Evans (née Edger, 6 January 1857 – 6 May 1935) was the first woman in New Zealand to gain a university degree.[1]

Early life[edit]

Edger was born in 1857 at Abingdon, Berkshire, England. Her family emigrated from England to New Zealand in 1862. She and her sisters received much of their early education from their father. They lived in Albertland and then in Auckland, and as there was no higher education for girls at the time, but she showed academic promise, she was placed in the top class of the Auckland College and Grammar School; she was the only girl in the class. On 11 July 1877 she graduated from the University of New Zealand with a BA in Mathematics and Latin.[2] When Kate applied to the senate of the University of New Zealand for permission to sit for a university scholarship she did not state her gender and her application was successful. She was the only female in classes at Auckland College and Grammar School, which was affiliated to the University of New Zealand. (Auckland University College was yet to be established.) She graduated in 1877 with a Bachelor of Arts (specialising in mathematics and Latin) from the University of New Zealand. Her qualification was lauded and 1,000 people came to cheer as the Bishop awarded here with a camellia to symbolise her modesty and her achievement.[3]

She and her sister. Lilian, both went on to obtain Masters degrees.[3]

Edger was the founding principal of Nelson College for Girls in 1883. She created drills for the girls. She married in 1890[4] and said that she would work on however she later resigned. This is thought to be due to her pregnancy with her first child.[3]


Kate Edger was a daughter of the Rev. Samuel Edger, a Christian minister[5] who brought his family from England with the Albertland settlers to New Zealand in 1862. A university graduate himself, he supported Kate and her sister Lilian in their efforts to gain higher education.[6]

Kate married in 1890 and supported her husband, William, who did charitable works by running a private school.[4]

Edger's sister Gertrude had a daughter, Geraldine Hemus, who became the third woman in New Zealand to be admitted to practice law as a barrister and solicitor.[7][8]


The Kate Edger Educational Charitable Trust provides financial assistance for women pursuing undergraduate or postgraduate degrees.[9] In 2004 the Kate Edger Information Commons was created at The University of Auckland.[10]

In September 2018, the Department of Mathematics at the University of Auckland was temporarily renamed to the "Kate Edgar Department of Mathematics" to mark the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage in New Zealand.[11]


  1. ^ Ministry for Culture and Heritage. "Kate Edger". Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  2. ^ Hughes, Beryl. "Edger, Kate Milligan". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  3. ^ a b c Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "Edger, Kate Milligan". teara.govt.nz. Retrieved 2019-07-13.
  4. ^ a b "Kate Edger". www.nzhistory.net.nz. Retrieved 2019-06-12.
  5. ^ Robert S. Ellwood (January 1993). Islands of the Dawn: The Story of Alternative Spirituality in New Zealand. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 263–. ISBN 978-0-8248-1487-8.
  6. ^ "More About the Kate Edger Educational Charitable Trust | Academic Dress Hire | Graduation & Academic Regalia". Auckgradwomen.org.nz. Retrieved 2014-05-26.
  7. ^ Hughes, Beryl (1992). Redbrick and Bluestockings: Women at Victoria, 1899-1993. Wellington. New Zealand: Victoria University Press. p. 23.
  8. ^ "New Zealand Law Society". www.lawsociety.org.nz. Retrieved 2017-09-16.
  9. ^ Auckgradwomen.org. "The Kate Edger Educational Charitable Trust". Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  10. ^ Auckgradwomen.org. "About Kate Edger". Retrieved 25 April 2011.
  11. ^ "Suffrage 125 – Women in Science". University of Auckland, Faculty of Science. 18 September 2018. Archived from the original on 19 September 2018. Retrieved 19 September 2018.