International Women’s Day 2016 – Pledge for parity

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on 8 March each year. This global day connects women around the world and aims to inspire them to achieve their full potential. The day celebrates the collective power of women past, present and future.  In 2016 the theme is Pledge for Parity.

International Women's Day

The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in Europe in 1911 on 19 March. More than one million men and women attended rallies to campaign for women’s rights and to end discrimination.

Library resources

Have a look at our booklist of books we love by and about women.

The following subject headings link to titles about the history of women and their rights:

Christchurch City Libraries also has copies of magazines such as Ms. For more women’s studies and feminist magazines, search Feminism — periodicals.

Cover of Men explain things to me Cover Cover of How to be a woman Cover of Vagenda Cover of What should we tell our daughters? Cover of Everyday sexism


Contemporary Women’s Issues
This resource offers full-text articles that bring together content from mainstream magazines, “grey” literature, and the alternative press — with a focus on the critical issues and events that influence women’s lives in more than 190 countries.

Opposing Viewpoints in Context
This resource offers full-text articles from many perspectives on major contentious social, political, and technological issues. Some topics that particularly affect women are the gender gap, women’s health, and women’s rights.

Internet Gateway listing of sites including women in business, women’s and gender studies and women’s health

Women’s societies and clubs
Local groups for women listed on our community information directory CINCH.

Women and the vote in New Zealand

Kate Sheppard memorial
Kate Sheppard memorial. Friday 19 September 2014. Flickr 2014-09-19-IMG_2216

New Zealand was the first self-governing country in the world to grant the vote to all adult women. Search the library catalogue for books on suffragists and women’s suffrage.

New Zealand women and the vote
Information on women and suffrage from New Zealand History Online.

Women’s Suffrage Petition
The petition was organised in 1893, and was described by Kate Sheppard as “a monster petition” demanding the right for women to vote. A digital image of the actual petition held at National Archives. Search for the names of women who signed the petition at New Zealand History Online.

Women’s Suffrage Movement
Article from 1966 An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock.

Kate Sheppard

Christchurch’s Kate Sheppard was the leader and main figurehead of the suffragist movement in New Zealand.

Kate Sheppard
Books about Kate Sheppard in our catalogue.

Kate Sheppard and Votes for Women
Information about Kate Sheppard’s life and work.

All about women – Sunday 6 March 2016

Last March, I went to the University of Canterbury for a panel on How to be a feminist and a session live from the Sydney Opera House. It was brilliant! Just before International Women’s Day, the Sydney Opera House brings you All about women. There was going to be a live simulcast shown at University of Canterbury, but unfortunately this has been cancelled. Hopefully the session will be recorded, as last year’s was.

All about women

What needs to change? panel discussion

First up at 2.30pm: What needs to change? featuring Masha Gessen, Crystal Lameman, Mallory Ortberg, Ann Sherry and Anne-Marie Slaughter.

If you could change the world overnight, what would you do first? What needs to change? We ask our panel to tell us what crucial levers they would pull if they had the power to change things overnight.

More information

Orange is the new black with Piper Kerman

Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison was the source material for the super popular Netflix series. So popular that it has its own abbreviation: OITNB. Piper will talk about the lessons she learned ‘doing time’ and:

how the generosity and acceptance of the women she met inside inspired her to become an advocate for the rights of female prisoners.

More information

All about women – reading list

Cover Cover Cover

Our page on International Women’s Day has more feminist resources and reading for you to explore.

Dead Dames – Mary Webb 1881-1927

Clive Owen made me read Mary Webb.  The fright wigged Mr Owen starred in a tv adaptation of Mary’s book Precious Bane.  I loved it, and read the book, and then all of her books. They had the doomy ruralness of  Thomas Hardy, and a Bronte-esque brooding.

Mary learned from her beloved father George Meredith a rich knowledge of the countryside, and appreciation of the legends and history of Shropshire.  But her life wasn’t an easy one. At the age of 20 she was diagnosed with Graves Disease, an incurable thyroid disorder. Mary became very self-conscious as the disease caused protrusion of the eyes and goitre.

She married Henry Webb in 1912 and the couple left Shropshire to live at Weston-super-Mare where Henry was a teacher. She wrote her first novel The Golden Arrow here, and much of her writing came from the homesick perspective of yearning for Shropshire.

Her novels achieved literary acclaim, but popular success eluded her. Perhaps her highest achievement was the award of the Prix Femina literary prize for Precious Bane (her fifth novel).  The Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, loved the book and sent her a letter.  By then both her health and marriage were  in decline. Her last novel Armour wherein he trusted, set in medieval Shropshire, was left as a beautiful fragment.  She died aged 46 in a nursing home.

Months later, the Prime Minister acclaimed her ‘neglected genius’. Posthumous fame arrived as her books were republished and were bestsellers in the 1930s – so popular that Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm parodied their style.

Her novels were made into films and tv series. In the 80s, Virago republished her work. And 2010 is another year of resurgence –  Mary Webb: Neglected Genius is the first exhibition about Mary’s  life and literary output.

Read more of our series on classic women writers Dead Dames, a celebration of International Women’s Day.

International Women’s Day – A time to pause and reflect?

International Women’s Day, Monday 8th March,  is a day set aside to affirm the advancement of women. It raises questions of social, economic and political emancipation. Around the world, women lack equal pay and representation in education, business and politics. Women of the West, after decades of effort and improvement, still have not completed their long journey. Others have much further to tread.

This is a day to remember our past and the struggles and positive victories of women now gone. Christchurch and Canterbury have been home to some strong, groundbreaking women:

  • Kate Sheppard MemorialKate Sheppard – a leader in the campaign for women to get the vote
  • Elsie Locke – writer, political activist, peace campaigner and feminist
  • Ettie Rout – most famous as a safe sex campaigner in World War One
  • The library also has a publication Unsung Heroines featuring biographies of Christchurch women, written to commemorate Women’s Suffrage Year, 1993. It demonstrates just how strong-minded and independent Victorian women could be.
  • Visit our page on International Women’s Day which links to on library and online resources including Contemporary Women’s Issues, a full-text database that brings together content  with a focus on the critical issues and events that influence women’s lives in more than 190 countries.

Let us grant greater generosity towards other women. Each day in ways great and small, each of us can help each other find our true place in the world – as women of courage, resolution and spirit. Such a journey begins with each of us, in our own backyards, in our own workplaces and in our own hearts.

Kim Morgan, Christchurch City Libraries

Dead Dames – Jean Rhys 1890-1979

Forget old Dod Byron being mad, bad and dangerous to know, Jean Rhys would wipe the floor with him. Rhys is best known for her novel Wide Sargasso Sea, published in 1966, a “prequel” to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre but with the emphasis on the sinister Mrs Rochester’s journey to madness. Set in the West Indies during the abolition of slavery the success of this novel gave Rhys, for the first time, financial security (she invested it in frocks, booze and make-up!) and a measure of fame.

Born in Dominica to a middle-class family, Rhys moved to England to finish her education and attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Her impenetrable Caribbean accent scuppered her acting ambitions, so she became a chorus girl and later a kept mistress to Lancelot Grey Hugh Smith, a wealthy stockbroker. This period of her life became the background for her second novel Voyage in the dark.

In 1919 she married Willem Lenglet, a Dutch journalist and spy, and together they led a ramshackle life on the outskirts of artistic society. Rhys had an affair with the writer Ford Madox Ford and he promoted her writing, introducing her collection of short stories The left bank. Her affair with Maddox and the collapse of her marriage became the subject matter for Quartet her first full novel.

The 1930s and 1940s saw Rhys publish two more novels, re-marry twice, drink steadily, fight spectacularly with her neighbours and enjoy a brief stay at her Majesty’s pleasure in Holloway Prison. What a girl!

Jean Rhys played the victim and outsider in her own life and used this victimhood as a central motif in her novels, but her novels are also shrewd examinations of  power and society, and the harsh realities that await us all.

Rhys died in 1979 leaving an unfinished autobiograhy Smile please.

Dead Dames – Josephine Tey 1896-1952

Josephine Tey is best known for her mystery novels  featuring gentleman detective Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, but she also enjoyed success during the 1930s as a playwright with both John Gielgud and Larry Olivier starring in her plays. She published several non-mystery titles under the pseudonym Gordon Daviot.

Born Elizabeth MacKintosh in Inverness, Tey trained as a physical education teacher but spent most of her adult life nursing her invalid parents and, of course, writing.

Her first detective novel The man in the queue was published in 1929 and introduced Alan Grant. He went on to feature in six of her titles but most notably in The daughter of time. Here the Inspector, incapacitated and hospitalised, turns his detection skills to the historic mystery of the the Princes in the Tower to determine whether Richard III was guilty of murdering his nephews.

Josephine Tey rejected established mystery formulas and instead strove to tell a variey of stories in a variety of fashions. The novelist Robert Barnard described her work as falling between the mystery novel and the “novel proper” and her titles are populated with “real” people and authentic although now slightly dated dialogue.

A pathologically private person, Tey gave no interviews.  John Gielgud said she was  “proud without being arrogant, and obstinate, though not conceited”. She died of liver cancer in 1952 and gifted her entire estate of £24, 232 18 s. 8d and future royalties to The National Trust.

Dead Dames – Barbara Pym 1913-1980

Vicars, curates, white elephant stalls and afternoon tea…..Barbara Pym’s novels are replete with dog collars, jumble and domestic details but they are also so very much more. Anne Tyler credits Pym with capturing ‘the heartbreaking silliness of everyday life’, and like Jane Austen, Barbara Pym delivers the everyday minutiae of small lives while simultaneously revealing concealed darkness and miseries.

Barbara wrote steadily throughout her life but there were two quite distinct periods to her published writing career. Her first novels came out between 1950-1961 and her last between 1977-1986 (several were published posthumously).

“The wilderness” years between 1961-1977 were when she went unpublished, An unsuitable attachment was rejected by her publisher Jonathan Cape for being too old fashioned and tame. Salvation came in in 1977 when the Times Literary Supplement asked critics to name the most underated authors of the last 75 years,  Pym’s name popped up twice with both poet Philip Larkin and Lord David Cecil citing her.

Now in vogue, publishers were eager to publish Pym. Quartet in autumn, short-listed for the Booker prize, and The sweet dove died came out in 1977 and 1978 and her previous novels were re-printed and introduced to an American readership. Tragically Barbara Pym died of cancer on January 11th 1980 leaving her legacy of several quietly but brilliantly observed novels.