Politics and passion fired the New Zealand campaign for women’s suffrage. This heady mix succeeded: in 1893 all Maori and European women in New Zealand gained the right to vote in national elections. In Farewell Speech, three historical figures tell very different versions of this epic story.

Kate Sheppard and Ada Wells exploited a stereotype of wife and mother to further the cause, but in their private lives they were no man's helpmeet. Their enemies called them monsters. But how can you spend a lifetime reforming society and also be perfect wives and mothers?

This novel caused a furore when published by Penguin in 1990. Read Farewell Speech on Kindle, and find out what all the fuss was about.

Rachel McAlpine is one of New Zealand’s liveliest and most purposeful writers. Farewell Speech is an important novel, focusing as it does on a nation’s history and achievement, thereby augmenting both.
— Fay Weldon

Three narrators, three stories, three struggles

Elegant and privileged, Kate Sheppard was the undisputed leader of the suffrage campaign. When the vote was won, she was lionized by women all over the world — only to create a scandal with her radical open marriage. 

Ada Wells had to earn her living as a teacher and hydroponics masseuse. She was a relentless reformer, getting into hot water many times. In times of war she was banned from churches and cinemas for loudly expressing her pacifist views. 

But it is Bim Wells, Ada's faithful, volatile, least-loved daughter, who has the last word. She is motivated by blind loyalty to her mother, but she tells a dark tale.