September 19 is celebrated as Women’s Suffrage Day. On that date in 1893 the new Electoral Act giving women in New Zealand the vote was passed into law. Leader of the suffrage fight was Kate Sheppard, a redoubtable Christchurch resident who threw her energies into many related causes including temperance (alcohol reform) and dress reform for women.
What would she make of current generations of women who may be wearing revealing clothing, binge drinking and pursuing careers once the preserve of men? Are they liberated and empowered? Do they really have freedom of choice? I think Kate would have some pretty staunch opinions.
Australian writer Emily Maguire was due at the Christchurch Writer’s Festival to talk with Marilyn Waring in a session entitled Your skirt’s too short: women in the 21st century. This is also the title of her latest book which is adapted for teenage readers from her 2008 book Princesses & pornstars : sex, power, identity. Both examine the challenges for women in an age of celebrity worship, mainstream porn and an unhealthy focus on appearance.