Feminism is not a four letter word

cover of Harpies & HeroinesI sometimes feel like a leaky tap. Drip, drip, dripping onto a huge stone, and the noise probably drives everyone around me crazy.

My life long  reason for harping on? The position of women and their rights in the world. More recently, I have noticed how most younger women take what they can do for granted and don’t realise how recently some of their ‘rights’ have been ‘given’ to them. New Zealand was the first country in the world to grant women the vote in 1893. This event is celebrated on 19 September each year and it is a good time to take stock of where women are in our society.

Many young women I’ve talked with think every woman has always been able to go to university, work full time, be a doctor, run a company, or own property.

Do they worry, I ask them, that female Rock and Pop artists still have to shake their bootie and let it all hang out to be a star? Their answer is that it is their choice, their way of showing strength and self empowerment. So why do the male artists not have to strip to be famous?

Cover of The Stalking of Julia GillardRecent news tells me we certainly haven’t ‘come a long way baby’. An English woman was bombarded with rape threats and other offensive abuse for campaigning to have a woman celebrated on a British banknote.

Whether you like a woman’s politics or not, female politicians are still vilified for so many reasons other than their political beliefs. Questions are asked such as why do they not have children, or if they have children, why aren’t they at home raising them? Female politicians can  vilified for being too fat or thin, or a bad dresser.

I have yet to hear a male politician criticised about his ties, or whether his haircut befits a leader of the nation.

cartoonWomen are still being criticised for breastfeeding in public, but you don’t have to go far to find pictures publicly displayed of women showing more than a woman feeding her baby would.

As Suffrage day is upon us again, I feel proud of the women who came before me and made my life better and proud of the things I have done in my life to increase awareness and make change, but I also feel frustrated by how much there is still to do and the stubbornness of our society to give half our population a fair and equitable deal in all things.

There are so many examples of New Zealand women fighting the good fight and living amazing lives. Here are some Christchurch connected stars who led the way:

  • Elizabeth McCombs was the first woman to be elected as an MP, in 1933, when she won the Lyttelton seat.
  • Elsie Locke was a prominent author and political activist, feminist and peace advocate
  • Ettie Rout is most famous as a safe sex campaigner in World War 1, setting up a safe sex brothel and designing a safe sex kit which was officially adopted by the NZEF and handed out compulsorily to all soldiers going on leave.
  • Kate Sheppard  became the leader of the fight to win the right for women to vote in elections. She organised petitions to Parliament asking for the right to vote for women and persuaded Sir John Hall, a leading member of Parliament, to support them.

To call yourself a feminist still seems to mean you are seen as uptight, man hating and with no sense of humour, when in fact being a feminist just means you believe in every person in every society being given equal rights, and the ability to live the life they wish to, unfettered by prejudice or laws that hinder this.

Do you care about women’s rights, or do you think women have equal rights, and there is no more work to be done?

Read all about it – women get the vote

What did our local newspaper The Press report about women getting the right to vote on 19 September 1893?
Now that Papers Past has The Press digitised for our pleasure we can find out!

It will be an evil day for New Zealand if the female agitators are alone to vote. Why, when I see some of these voluable persons, whom I have the pleasure of knowing, I involuntarily bolt into the nearest shop for safety. What will happen to the State if these join their votes with the hysterical male women who desire to control this demented colony, I tremble to depict.

Letter to the editor, Volume L, Issue 8591, 19 September 1893

20 September 1893 copy of The Press

Women’s Franchise: 20 September 1893. Volume L, Issue 8592

It was passed by a House, the majority of whose members are in their hearts opposed to the change. It has been forced upon the colony, the majority of the electors in which are opposed to the revolution. It has, finally, been forced upon the women of New Zealand, although the majority of them do not want the franchise, and have made no claims to obtain the privilege.

A telegram from Premier Richard Seddon to Kate Sheppard and the Executive of the W.C.T.U.:

Electoral Bill assented to by his Excellency the Governor at quarter to twelve. “I trust now that all doubts as to the sincerity of the Government in this very important matter has been effectually resolved”.

Aaaar, ’tis International Talk like a pirate day me hearties

Today is International talk like a pirate day.

Enjoy some piratical rambustifications:

Cover of The man whose mother was a pirate Cover of Blacklung

Plus when you use our check out machine, blow your barnacles off by doing it like a pirate. Yo ho ho!

Pirate libraryIssue your stuff pirate style

Suffrage City

120 years ago today – 19 September 1893 – women in New Zealand got the vote.
Kate Sheppard Memorial

Kate Sheppard Memorial

And 20 years ago today this Christchurch landmark – the Kate Sheppard Memorial – was unveiled.

Kia ora to all the women who fought so hard for us to get the vote.

Public notice for a meeting on the present and outlook of woman's suffrage to be held at the Oddfellows Hall, Lichfield Street, Chch.  [20 Oct. 1892]
Public notice for a meeting on the present and outlook of woman’s suffrage to be held at the Oddfellows Hall, Lichfield Street, Chch. 20 Oct. 1892
Photot of Some of the first women voters entering the Tuam Street hall
Some of the first women voters entering the Tuam Street hall. November 1893.

Our suffrage related stuff

More on votes for women