THE current population of Scotland is about five and a half million. It’s estimated that at least five times that number across the world can claim Scottish heritage.

Like a lot of Scotland, this area’s story has been shaped by successive exoduses to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and America.

For those of us interested in local history finding a local connection to a world event however tenuous, is like discovering gold.

Isabella Reid was born in Hardgate in 1833, then a small village predominantly occupied by weavers and miners.

Aged 23, Isabella, a cotton mill worker, married James, who like her father was a miner and who also came from the Hardgate.

Isabella most likely worked for William Dunn in Hardgate Mill and James at Blairdardie or Broadfield Colliery.

A couple of years into their marriage, the Reids moved to Govan and from there to Otago in the picturesque South Island of New Zealand.

In those days a journey from Glasgow to New Zealand took up to four months by sea and it was in New Zealand that Isabella made her contribution to securing women’s suffrage.

New Zealand’s first people, the Māori’s, had always conferred positions of leadership on women.

In that respect, colonisation was a step backward but New Zealand women mobilised and, mirroring the 19th century campaigns in the UK, started campaigning for votes for women, supported by male parliamentarians who, from the 1870s onwards, introduced a succession of, ultimately unsuccessful, bills to widen the franchise. Happily, success was not too far away.

In 1893, over 24,000 New Zealand women – including Isabella Reid from Hardgate – signed the suffrage petition.

It comprised more than 500 individual sheets, collated from across the country, and glued together it formed a single roll that stretched for several hundred metres.

The petition, presented to Parliament in July 1893, gave the campaign a final push and in September 1893 the Act giving women the vote passed into law.

New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the vote, with a little help from a Hardgate woman.

The Reids raised their six children on their farm bought from the proceeds of James’ work as a miner and a shepherd.

James died in 1908 and on 15 April, 1911, Isabella died at home. They are buried in the Fairfax Cemetery, Milton, New Zealand.

Universal suffrage was not achieved in the UK until 1928.