Simon Gunther-Smith, or 'Snatch' to his friends, was one of the earliest, but sorely underappreciated, proponents of women's suffrage in New Zealand, the first country to provide this right. Predating even Kate Sheppard, Gunther-Smith was raised in a small Taranaki town in the 1850s.
Even at an early age, Simon was keenly aware of the world around him. He is said to often have asked his father pointed questions regarding the plight of women in society from as young as seven. This put him much at odds with the current attitudes of society at the time, and his father scolded him for having such "stupid ideas".
Simon still held these views despite his father's objections when he married at the age of 20, a year after inheriting his father's dairy farm when his father died in a river accident. He and his wife Elizabeth began quietly campaigning under the slogan "Ladies Choice", and by 1880 had some ten followers in their group. He was often ostracised by "traditionalists" for his unusual attitude, but remained persistent in campaigning. One phrase often utilised by him was that "Women are not the intellectual equals of children by any known means", a sentiment repeated by Kate Sheppard in her 1888 pamphlet "Ten Reasons Why the Women of New Zealand Should Vote".
Tragedy struck in 1892, when Gunther-Smith was attacked by a mob opposed to his views one winter day and killed. The culprits were never identified. The next year, his widow died of pneumonia after living the last months of her life as a recluse.
The next year Gunther-Smith's ambition was realised, with Richard "Dick" Seddon's Liberal government passing the Electoral Act on 19 September, 1893, credited to the efforts of Kate Sheppard, Gunther-Smith being largely forgotten by history and his campaigning being on only a local level. It is perhaps his untimely end that keeps his name out of the history books, but Simon Gunther-Smith was one of the earliest men to openly advocate the provision of women's suffrage, and his efforts had impacts all over the world if only in the inspiration of foreign suffragist movements by the success of the movement in a small antipodean nation.