Catherine Anne Maclean

to 1948

Catherine Anne Maclean was born to Scottish immigrants, Neil and Helen Maclean, and grew up in Waharoa, near Matamata, in the Waikato region.[1] Neil was a factory worker at the local Waharoa diary factory.[2] She attended Matamata High School, and she gained a University Bursary in her final year, 1948.[3] In 1949 Catherine enrolled at Auckland University College in Zoology.[3]


In 1989, Dame Catherine was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II as the first female Governor-General of New Zealand on the advice of Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and took office on 13 December 1990, causing a by-election for the Mayoralty of Auckland.[3] She accepted on the proviso that the Queen be informed before her Royal tour in February 1990, and that the leader of the opposition be informed.[3] Then Deputy Prime Minister Helen Clark and Labour Party President Margaret Wilson[1] pushed for a female Governor-General, as the 100th anniversary of Women’s suffrage in New Zealand would occur during the Governor-General’s term in 1993. Tizard had been informed of her impending appointment by her former husband Bob Tizard, who was a member of Cabinet at the time. She was the third female Governor-General in the Commonwealth (after Dame Minita Gordon of Belize in 1981, and Jeanne Sauvé in Canada in 1984).

During her tenure in office, Dame Catherine ended the practice of bowing to the Governor-General, declaring, “No New Zealander should have to bow to another”.[1] She also ended the practice of members of staff ceasing to clean whenever she entered the room.[3]

While Governor-General, a particular piece of legislation did not appeal to Dame Catherine at all. She asked the question of her responsible official and asked the question of herself and finally said (apparently). “All right, I will sign my assent, but I will do it in black ink!” A special bottle was obtained and used for the purpose!”[5]