Categories
Uncategorized

The Birth of the Association of Women Artists

The Association of Women Artists (AWA) was a group born out of a multi-media exhibition called “Women in the Arts”.[1] The exhibition ran from June 23rd to July 14th 1980. A discussion between Auckland artist Carole Shepheard, Outreach education curator Don Soloman and an American artist Connie Fleres was the catalyst for the exhibition. Shepheard shared an open invitation welcoming women artists to contribute. Artists of any skillset were welcome to contribute, beginners, unknowns and gallery regulars alike. Wellington artists Barbara Strathdee, Vivian Lynn and gallery director Janne Land selected 38 artists and their work to be exhibited.[2]

Envoys: Association of Women Artists International Postcard Project, 1996. Installation view, Te Uru.

This exhibition shone a light on a community of women artists keen to connect. Artists wanted to meet other artists to see how they worked and what challenges they faced. In correspondence, Shepheard wrote, “All wanted to see some sort of ongoing group established and at this point the Association was formed”.[3] Any interested woman could join. A subscription fee provided funding to help run the association, and there was a low commission on exhibition sales. The group became more active, holding meetings, talks and exhibitions. They had a newsletter for members to learn about publications, exhibitions and courses. The association held workshops to encourage women artists to try new directions. Local and international speakers provided guidance on applying for grants and developments in art locally and internationally. The association gave attention and created discourse around less mainstream art media, such as Pacific tapa cloth. Ponsonby gallery Outreach gave valuable support through visibility and providing a point of contact.

From 1982 the association held two members exhibitions each year – these were split in focus. One exhibit was based on relevant themes such as relationships between women, or women and culture. In contrast, the other exhibit was a chance for unknowns to exhibit with no set theme. These exhibitions showcased a wide range of styles and media, including collaborations. The association continued to attract new members in the early 1990s. Exhibitions and other activities emphasised art as a social construct. As Gill explained, “the power relationships within society largely determine not only what is “good” or “bad” art, but even what art is in the first place.”[4] The Associations efforts worked toward redressing the imbalance of power within the social structures of the art world.

Envoys: Association of Women Artists International Postcard Project, 1996. Installation view, Te Uru.My captured picture

In 1993 the association initiated “Envoys”, an exhibition to mark the centenary of New Zealand’s Women’s Suffrage.[5] Contributors to Envoys were invited to create handmade postcards, which were sent around the world and later exhibited in April-May 1996 at Lopdell House in Titirangi, now Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery.[6] Postcards as a medium were said to be a gentle and intimate symbol of the universality of women’s concerns.[7] In the catalogue essay, Claudia Bell said, “The process of making small individual art works then sending them out to unknown women from diverse cultures is an active process of seeking international relationships and celebrating cultural difference. Like the attaching of photographs, flowers and personal objects to the fences at Greenham Common, the postcards are physical manifestations of women’s insistence that the personal is political”.[8]

New Zealand women artists responded to postcards from Bogota, London, Johannesburg, and New York in a global exchange. Featured artists included Emma Foote, Bev Goodwin, Luci Harrison, Miriam Saphira, Ailie Snow, Joan Travaglia.[9] The exhibition served to celebrate women’s suffrage, strengthen women’s voices, elevate women’s concerns and provide a way to connect with future generations.[10] Despite its success, in the mid-late 1990s, it was proving difficult to maintain the organisation. Income was not covering costs, exhibitions required a lot of work to set up, and regular meetings were not well attended. Some members moved to the Artists’ Alliance instead, established in 1991. The last newsletter appeared in 1998, after which the AWA ceased to function.

Envoys: Association of Women Artists International Postcard Project, 1996. Installation view, Te Uru.

In 2018 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage, “Envoys Onwards” appeared in Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery. It featured the original postcards on display alongside a new generation of women artists postcards. Participants were encouraged to use a range of media, including collages, stencils and stamps, to decorate their unique postcards, with collaboration encouraged. Given the continued rise of instant internet-based messaging, these postcards’ intimate and personal nature was just as powerful in the original exhibition. The invitation to participate also claimed to mark the reforming of the AWA. In 2019 all postcards and supporting information from both 1996 and 2018 exhibitions were collated in preparation for potential archiving by Auckland City Art Gallery or the National Library of Wellington.


Recommended Further Reading:

Archives New Zealand. “Divorce Laws in New Zealand” Accessed July 17, 2021. https://archives.govt.nz/search-the-archive/researching/research-guides/identity/life-events


Brown, Hayley Marina. 2011. “Loosening the Marriage Bond: Divorce in New Zealand, c.1890s – c.1950s” PhD thesis, Victoria University of Wellington. https://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/xmlui/handle/10063/1768?show=full


“The New Divorce Law” White Ribbon, October 1, 1898. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/periodicals/WHIRIB18981001.2.8


“EQUALITY OF THE SEXES DEMANDED” Clutha Leader, December 21, 1894. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CL18941221.2.10

Bibliography:

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. (n.d.). Association of Women Artists. Retrieved July 23rd, 2021, from https://www.aucklandartgallery.com/explore-art-and-ideas/artist/7368/association-of-women-artists?q=%2Fexplore-art-and-ideas%2Fartist%2F7368%2Fassociation-of-women-artists

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. (n.d.). Women’s Art Exhibition Posters. Retrieved July 23rd, 2021, from https://www.aucklandartgallery.com/explore-art-and-ideas/archives/19627?q=%2Fexplore-art-and-ideas%2Farchives%2F19627

Association of Women Artists (N.Z.). (1996). Association of Women Artists. “Envoys; Association of Women Artists international postcard project” April 19th – May 2nd 1996. Lopdell House Gallery. National Library. Retrieved July 23rd, 2021, from https://natlib.govt.nz/records/38028591?search%5Bi%5D%5Bname_authority_id%5D=-340761&search%5Bpath%5D=items

Else, A. (2019). Association of Women Artists 1980 – 1998. New Zealand History. Retrieved July 23rd, 2021, from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/women-together/association-women-artists

Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery. (n.d.). Envoys: Association of Women Artists International Postcard Project – Te Uru. Retrieved July 23rd, 2021, from https://www.teuru.org.nz/index.cfm/whats-on/calendar/envoys-association-of-women-artists-international-postcard-project/

Reference List:

[1] Else, A. (2019). Association of Women Artists 1980 – 1998. New Zealand History. Retrieved July 23rd, 2021, from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/women-together/association-women-artists

[2] Else, A. (2019). Association of Women Artists 1980 – 1998. New Zealand History. Retrieved July 23rd, 2021, from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/women-together/association-women-artists

[3] As cited in Else, A. (2019). Association of Women Artists 1980 – 1998. New Zealand History. Retrieved July 23rd, 2021, from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/women-together/association-women-artists

[4] Gill (1989), as cited in Else, A. (2019). Association of Women Artists 1980 – 1998. New Zealand History. Retrieved July 23rd, 2021, from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/women-together/association-women-artists

[5] Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery. (n.d.). Envoys: Association of Women Artists International Postcard Project – Te Uru. Retrieved July 23rd, 2021, from https://www.teuru.org.nz/index.cfm/whats-on/calendar/envoys-association-of-women-artists-international-postcard-project/

[6] Else, A. (2019). Association of Women Artists 1980 – 1998. New Zealand History. Retrieved July 23rd, 2021, from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/women-together/association-women-artists

[7]  Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery. (n.d.). Envoys: Association of Women Artists International Postcard Project – Te Uru. Retrieved July 23rd, 2021, from https://www.teuru.org.nz/index.cfm/whats-on/calendar/envoys-association-of-women-artists-international-postcard-project/

[8] Claudia Bell (1996), as cited in Else, A. (2019). Association of Women Artists 1980 – 1998. New Zealand History. Retrieved July 23rd, 2021, from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/women-together/association-women-artists

[9] Association of Women Artists (N.Z.). (1996). Association of Women Artists. “Envoys; Association of Women Artists international postcard project” April 19th – May 2nd 1996. Lopdell House Gallery. National Library. Retrieved July 23rd, 2021, from https://natlib.govt.nz/records/38028591?search%5Bi%5D%5Bname_authority_id%5D=-340761

[10] Association of Women Artists (N.Z.). (1996). Association of Women Artists. “Envoys; Association of Women Artists international postcard project” April 19th – May 2nd 1996. Lopdell House Gallery. National Library. Retrieved July 23rd, 2021, from https://natlib.govt.nz/records/38028591?search%5Bi%5D%5Bname_authority_id%5D=-340761

Image Bibliography:

All images are from “Envoys: Association of Women Artists International Postcard Project, 1996. Installation view, Te Uru.”

The exhibition was initiated by the Association of Women Artists in 1993 to mark the centenary of New Zealand’s Womens Suffrage.

Thanks to The Northern Regional Arts Council (now Creative New Zealand), The Titirangi Community Arts Council, New Zealand Post and Crescendo Enterprises.

Published: January 11th, 2021

Last modified: January 12th, 2021

Cite as: “The Birth of the Association of Women Artists”, Womens History of New Zealand, Last modified January 2022, https://womenshistorynz.com/the-birth-of-the-association-of-women-artists/

Categories
Uncategorized

The Divorce Act of 1898 : Equality of Marriage Rights

The Divorce Act of 1898 was a part of the greater women’s equality movement, the Act stemming from campaigns and calls for equality in marriage, divorce and life. The Divorce Act made the grounds for divorce equal across both parties, making divorce more accessible for women in particular.

Prior to the amendment to the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act 1867, the grounds for divorce were unequally applied across man and wife. For example, husbands could sue for divorce on the grounds of proven adultery by the wife, while the wives had to prove not only adultery, but also cruelty or desertion by the husband to sue for divorce. The Act levelled the playing field in that it allowed both husbands and wives to petition for divorce upon the grounds of adultery. This Act also expanded the grounds for divorce beyond mere adultery to wilful desertion without cause for over five years, being a habitual drunkard for four years or more, cruelty, and attempted murder of the spouse. As said by Brown, the Act “responded to the criticisms of the sexual double standard relating to adultery.”[1]

Titled “For Better, or for Worse”

The allegorical figure of justice holds a rolled up copy of the divorce extension bill while a vicar gainsays her. In the foreground a man drags his wife by the arm. She holds their baby in the other.

Extended Title – Justice – I demand that this unhappy woman be released from her contract. Her husband is making a hideous mockery of her life. The church – No, my dear madam, they are husband and wife, and to part them would be unscriptural.’ Divorce extension bill. Ticket of leave.

New Zealand observer and free lance (Newspaper). Cartoonist unknown :For better, or for worse. New Zealand Observer and Free Lance, Saturday, 14 May 1887 (page 8).. Ref: J-065-026. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22826607

The grounds for desertion could be applied rather liberally at times. One of the first divorce rulings under desertion was the Simons v. Simons case. Dr Simons petitioned the court to grant him a divorce under the grounds of desertion. However, upon closer examination of the case, it was discovered that Mrs Simons had never left her home. She “simply deprived her husband of her society from 8 pm to 8 am.”[2] The court was in favour of granting desertion under this case, as the wife “showed herself determined to no longer be bound by the matrimonial tie, and thus matrimonial life was brought to an end.”[3]

The wheels of change often turn slowly, and in this case, it took thirteen years from the introduction of changing the amending Divorce bill for it to pass through both houses in 1898. “After thirteen years agitation, the legal standard of morality in New Zealand has been made the same for both sexes”[4] This period also saw other innovative legislation passed that affected women’s lives in New Zealand. Women’s Suffrage was passed in 1893, the Industrial Conciliation and the Arbitration Act in 1894 and the introduction of old-age pensions in 1898.

A minister marrying a mature couple who are making vows to themselves, rather than to each other. Refers to an attempt by the Womens’ Political Associations to gain equal rights in marriage for women. Other Titles – The Womens Political Associations of New Zealand have petitioned Parliament in favour of ‘Equality of marriage rights’

Captioned:

The Women’s Political Associations of N.Z. (Chch. and Gisborne) have petitioned Parliment in favour of “Equality of Marriage Rights.”

Both – “we do most solemony swear that we will love, honour, and obey ourselves, etc., etc, till the court doth us part. s’elpme.”

New Zealand Graphic and Ladies’ Journal. Izett, A Pattle, fl 1895 :”We do most solemnly swear that we will love, honour and obey ourselves the court doth part, s’elpme” … New Zealand Graphic, 5 January 1895, page 9.. Various artists :Collection of newspaper clippings, photocopies and bromides of cartoons by Fox (A-313-2), T Ellis – ie Thomas Ellis Glover (A-313-3), J. C. Blomfield (A-313-4) and John McNamara (A-313-11). Also folders of cartoons by various artists published in New Zealand Free Lance (A-313-6), in The Guardian (A-313-7), in Xrays (A-313-8), in the New Zealand Observer (A-313-9), in The Standard (A-313-12) and in various publications (A-313-1).. Ref: A-313-1-007. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23081559

The politician’s Hon John MacGregor, Mr Robert McNab and Robert Stout were massive campaigners of the divorce reform of 1898. In addition, women’s organisations such as The National Council of Women, led by president Amey Daldy with support from vice presidents Marion Hatton, Ada Wells and Kate Sheppard, supported the reform of the Act, as it removed the double standard of the current wording of the law. The ‘White Ribbon’, a publication by the ‘Women’s Christian Temperance Union New Zealand’, also expressed support for the Act. The Gisborne Women’s Political Association circulated a petition in 1894 demanding equality in marriage and divorce. The petition demanded parliament “to alter the law of divorce only in as far as to put the husband and. wife on precisely the same footing as to a. dissolution of the marriage tie.”[5] The petition provided support for the divorce reform of 1898 and signalled a strong call for equality.

New Zealand Graphic and Ladies’ Journal. Cartoonist unknown :Very awkward for the cow. New Zealand Graphic and Ladies Home Journal, 25 August 1894 p. 177.. Various artists :Collection of newspaper clippings, photocopies and bromides of cartoons by Fox (A-313-2), T Ellis – ie Thomas Ellis Glover (A-313-3), J. C. Blomfield (A-313-4) and John McNamara (A-313-11). Also folders of cartoons by various artists published in New Zealand Free Lance (A-313-6), in The Guardian (A-313-7), in Xrays (A-313-8), in the New Zealand Observer (A-313-9), in The Standard (A-313-12) and in various publications (A-313-1).. Ref: A-313-5-003. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23110824

A train labelled ‘Divorce Amendment Act’ driven by the New Zealand premier Richard Seddon, is powering down a railway track labelled commonsense. The primate of the New Zealand Anglican church is standing in protest on the line with a cow labelled ‘church opposition’.

Extended Title – In a very well known story of George Stephenson, the father of the locomotive, it is related that on one occasion he was asked by a noble lord, ‘What, Mr Stephenson, would happen to your locomotives if a cow got on the line?’ …with a twinkle in his eye, ‘Well, ma lord, it wud be vara awkward for the cow.’

As with all significant changes, there was also opposition to counter the support. For example, the Anglican Church opposed the Divorce Act. After the Act passed, the Anglican church refused to remarry any divorced person during the lifetime of their previous spouse. The divorce bill was a feature part of the women’s equality movement. It gave women further mobility and equality. The bill reflected growing calls and support for women’s equality and the strength groups such as the ‘national council of women’, the temperance union, and other women’s political organisations.


Emma Lyes
Emma Lyes

I’m Emma, a book-devouring, history-loving feminist who got involved with WHNZ when I was looking for a volunteering opportunity. WHNZ seemed like the perfect fit for me and I loved the idea of being able to research and write about women in New Zealand’s history. Too often history is recorded solely from the point of view of men and I’m proud to be a part of a team that has decided to correct that oversight.

Recommended Further Reading:

Archives New Zealand. “Divorce Laws in New Zealand” Accessed July 17, 2021. https://archives.govt.nz/search-the-archive/researching/research-guides/identity/life-events


Brown, Hayley Marina. 2011. “Loosening the Marriage Bond: Divorce in New Zealand, c.1890s – c.1950s” PhD thesis, Victoria University of Wellington. https://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/xmlui/handle/10063/1768?show=full


“The New Divorce Law” White Ribbon, October 1, 1898. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/periodicals/WHIRIB18981001.2.8


“EQUALITY OF THE SEXES DEMANDED” Clutha Leader, December 21, 1894. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CL18941221.2.10

Bibliography:

Archives New Zealand. “Divorce Laws in New Zealand” Accessed July 17, 2021. https://archives.govt.nz/search-the-archive/researching/research-guides/identity/life-events


Benjamin, Ethel R. “THE INEQUALITIES OF THE LAW REGARDING MEN AND WOMEN.” Evening Star, April 30, 1898. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18980430.2.39.26


Brown, Hayley Marina. 2011. “Loosening the Marriage Bond: Divorce in New Zealand, c.1890s – c.1950s” PhD thesis, Victoria University of Wellington. https://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/xmlui/handle/10063/1768?show=full


Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 2018. “Women and the vote” Accessed July 17, 2021. https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/womens-suffrage/national-council-of-women


“National Women’s Council” New Zealand Times, April 26, 1898. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZTIM18980426.2.10


“The New Divorce Law” Otago Daily Times, October 13, 1898. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ODT18981013.2.15


“The New Divorce Law” The Press, October 7, 1898. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CHP18981007.2.17


New Zealand Acts as Enacted. “Divorce Act 1898 (62 VICT 1898 No 42)” Accessed July 17, 2021. http://www.nzlii.org/nz/legis/hist_act/da189862v1898n42167


“The New Divorce Law” White Ribbon, October 1, 1898. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/periodicals/WHIRIB18981001.2.8


“EQUALITY OF THE SEXES DEMANDED” Clutha Leader, December 21, 1894. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CL18941221.2.10

Reference List:

[1] Brown, Hayley Marina. 2011. “Loosening the Marriage Bond: Divorce in New Zealand, c.1890s – c.1950s” PhD thesis, Victoria University of Wellington. https://researcharchive.vuw.ac.nz/xmlui/handle/10063/1768?show=full


[2] “The New Divorce Law” Otago Daily Times, October 13, 1898. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ODT18981013.2.15


[3]  “The New Divorce Law” Otago Daily Times, October 13, 1898. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ODT18981013.2.15


[4] “The New Divorce Law” White Ribbon, October 1, 1898. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/periodicals/WHIRIB18981001.2.8


[5] “EQUALITY OF THE SEXES DEMANDED” Clutha Leader, December 21, 1894. https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/CL18941221.2.10

Image Bibliography:

Image 1: “The Proposed Amendments to the Divorce Law. ‘whoso god has joined together let no man put asunder”

New Zealand observer and free lance (Newspaper). Cartoonist unknown :The Proposed Amendments to the Divorce Law. New Zealand Observer and Free Lance, Saturday, 25th August 1894 (page 7). Paperspast https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/TO1894082


Image 2: “For Better, or for Worse”

New Zealand observer and free lance (Newspaper). Cartoonist unknown :For better, or for worse. New Zealand Observer and Free Lance, Saturday, 14 May 1887 (page 8).. Ref: J-065-026. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22826607


Image 3: “The Womens Political Associations of New Zealand have petitioned Parliament in favour of ‘Equality of marriage rights”

New Zealand Graphic and Ladies’ Journal. Izett, A Pattle, fl 1895 :”We do most solemnly swear that we will love, honour and obey ourselvesl the court doth part, s’elpme” … New Zealand Graphic, 5 January 1895, page 9.. Various artists :Collection of newspaper clippings, photocopies and bromides of cartoons by Fox (A-313-2), T Ellis – ie Thomas Ellis Glover (A-313-3), J. C. Blomfield (A-313-4) and John McNamara (A-313-11). Also folders of cartoons by various artists published in New Zealand Free Lance (A-313-6), in The Guardian (A-313-7), in Xrays (A-313-8), in the New Zealand Observer (A-313-9), in The Standard (A-313-12) and in various publications (A-313-1).. Ref: A-313-1-007. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23081559


Image 4: “Divorce Amendment Act”

New Zealand Graphic and Ladies’ Journal. Cartoonist unknown :Very awkward for the cow. New Zealand Graphic and Ladies Home Journal, 25 August 1894 p. 177.. Various artists :Collection of newspaper clippings, photocopies and bromides of cartoons by Fox (A-313-2), T Ellis – ie Thomas Ellis Glover (A-313-3), J. C. Blomfield (A-313-4) and John McNamara (A-313-11). Also folders of cartoons by various artists published in New Zealand Free Lance (A-313-6), in The Guardian (A-313-7), in Xrays (A-313-8), in the New Zealand Observer (A-313-9), in The Standard (A-313-12) and in various publications (A-313-1).. Ref: A-313-5-003. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23110824

Published: December 7th, 2021

Last modified: December 7th, 2021

Cite as: Emma Lyes, “The Divorce Act of 1898 : Equality of marriage rights”, Womens History of New Zealand, Last modified December 2021, https://womenshistorynz.com/the-divorce-act-of-1898–equality-of-marriage-rights/

Categories
Uncategorized

A Brief History of Abortion

The fight for women’s equality in New Zealand has long included the right to abortion.

Abortion has been a hotly contested issue by medical professionals, government officials, and the New Zealand public for over a hundred years. From the 1840s where abortion was outlawed entirely, to abortion anxiety post-WWI, to the ’70s where the abortion debate came to a head, leading to today.

1840 to 1950s: Abortion as an Illegal and Unsafe Practice

After the Treaty of Waitangi, Britain imposed its laws onto New Zealand, including the outlawing of abortion.[1] Once New Zealand became a self-governing nation, new legislation passed in 1867 made any actions taken to end a pregnancy illegal.[2] Under the law, any person who ended a pregnancy was criminally liable; women who sought an abortion were considered criminal accomplices.

New Zealand. Department of Health. New Zealand. Department of Health :Abortion! Except on medical grounds, abortion is a crime. Let the new life be born! For a healthier nation. Issued by the Dept of Health. 4a [1944]. [Ephemera of quarto size, concerning abortion in New Zealand, 1970- ]. Ref: Eph-B-ABORTION-1944-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22791090

If a woman ended her pregnancy deliberately, she was criminally responsible. In Britain, the penalty for this crime was death or transportation to the colonies. However, when there is demand, there is supply, and illegal abortions took place. While some people may have just wanted to help, many people were willing to take advantage of desperate women and profit off such an industry. Abortion was not the only way women would deal with an unwanted pregnancy or children. Particularly for the unmarried and poor, cases of selling off children known as ‘baby farming’ popped up in New Zealand; this practice was high in the 1880s.[3]

Starting in 1927, the Department of Health required hospitals to report the figures of women admitted due to septic abortions.[4] These figures are the baseline of estimated abortions taking place in New Zealand. An estimate from the 1927 Annual report from the Director-General of Health lists the number of hospitalisations in New Zealand from botched abortions as around 10,000.[5] The figure for total abortions is likely higher when including women who did not seek medical help and those who had successful abortions.

The reason abortions were unsafe at this time was due to the methods used. Abortions at the time were a pretty risky procedure. Abortions were carried out by inserting an instrument into the woman’s vaginal canal to end the pregnancy leading to a high risk of internal damage. Furthermore, they often were performed in un-sanitised environments by untrained professionals. This dangerous procedure, often performed with dirty instruments and unclean hands, caused the risk for infections to be high. Nevertheless, women were desperate enough to risk debilitating health complications and criminalisation to receive an abortion.

In the 1930s, limited abortion rights were allowed for women whose life was in danger due to their pregnancy. However, abortion was still widely disapproved of and doctors could still refuse to perform an abortion based on personal beliefs. This practice being known as conscientious objection. Even though the new law created minimal access to abortion, it still sparked panic from the ’20s to the ’30s. The end of the First World War brought about public concern about abortions. Abortions seemed to be debated by nearly everybody, from everyday people to doctors and newspapers to government officials. One radical argument against abortion suggested that abortion was why Europeans were losing racial dominance; this argument came from the eugenics movements of the time.[6]

CHEMIST HAYNE. Committed for Trial on Abortion Charge. (NZ Truth, 26 November 1921). Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/5605377

The 1960s to 1990s: Division and Controversy to Decriminalisation

The 1960s brought about sexual liberation, opinions on sex, motherhood, and birth control began to shift. This shift did not just occur within the public sphere; it also created ripples in the medical world and would start making abortions easier to obtain.[7] The view that abortion should be accessible to everyone was becoming more commonplace. As a result, abortions increased from fewer than 70 in 1965 to over 300 in 1970.[8] Many Pro-choice and Anti-abortion groups were founded at this time and began to mobilise, creating a heated debate around abortion.

Even though public policy and attitudes towards abortion were shifting towards tolerance and acceptance of abortion, there were still those who felt that abortion needed to be prevented. The mildest reactions during this time included anti-abortionists picketing clinics and joining forces with conservative groups like Moral Rearmament, Family Rights Association, Society for the Protection of Community Standards (SPCS), and “Family 75.” A notable anti-abortion group was the SPUC, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, which originated in Britain and spread to New Zealand.[9] The SPUC and its supporters would gather around abortion facilities and pray, sing, and demand women not to kill their babies. These protesters went as far as following women home and telling their families that they had received an abortion.

Members of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child presenting their “Right-to-life” petition to the Minister of Health, Thomas McGuigan, circa 26 August 1975. Shows the members of SPUC holding cardboard boxes of petition forms while the Minister stands alongside. From left to right: Marilyn Pryor, Dr John Bergin, Dr Diana Mason, and Des Dalgety.

Photograph taken by an unidentified Evening Post staff photographer, probably in Parliament buildings in Wellington.

Members of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child presenting their Right-to-life petition to the Minister of Health, Thomas McGuigan. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/4-022814-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22746633

Another anti-abortion group was ‘Feminists for Life’. This group included women such as Connie Purdue. ‘Feminists for Life’ argued that pregnant women should be supported with maternity leave and childcare rather than receive abortion access.[10] Anti-abortionist feminists caused division within the burgeoning Women’s Liberation Movement in the ’70s.[11]  Feminists for life changed their name to ‘Women For Life’ in 1983, signalling their rejection of current feminist views and a broader division in the feminist movement.[12] While the anti-abortion movement grew, there was also a growing pro-choice movement.

One prominent pro-choice organisation included WONNAC, Women’s National Abortion Action Campaign WONNAC, formed in 1973, firmly believed that the control of a woman’s body and fertility would remain solely with the woman herself. The bulk of their supporters came from left-wing university students and the feminist movement at large. Another prominent group was  ALRANZ, the Abortion Law Reform Association of New Zealand. ALARANZ, formed in 1971, worked as a pressure group to lobby for abortion law reform; ALRANZ remains active today.

An abortion controversy that hit the New Zealand public was about a new method of abortions: vacuum aspiration. Vacuum aspiration was the method of sucking out the womb’s contents. Vacuum aspiration was a very safe procedure due to the low rate of infection and damage to the uterus. Usually, when a safe alternative medical procedure is created, it is hailed as an outstanding achievement. However, for a medical procedure as controversial as abortion, the new vacuum method only added fuel to the fire.[13]

Pro-choice demonstrators with banners outside parliament on the first day of the Woolnough case. The banners read: Let women decide for themselves; Drop the charges; Clinics not choice by cash; Unjust trial oppressive law; Clinics not knitting needles. Dr Woolnough was facing charges of twelve counts of procuring unlawful abortions. The case was heard in Auckland.

Published in the Evening Post 28 April 1975 Photograph taken 28 April 1975 by an Evening Post photographer

Pro-choice demonstrators with banners outside parliament on the first day of the Woolnough case. Dominion Post (Newspaper): Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP/1975/1697/7-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23020620

During this time, the Auckland Medical Aid Centre (AMAC) opened in 1974. AMAC provided abortions for women in the first trimester of their pregnancy (1-14 weeks), making abortions easier to access. In September of 1974, a police raid was carried out on AMAC clinic, and Dr Jim Woolnough, one of the centre’s doctors, was prosecuted for ‘illegal abortions’.[14] Dr Jim Woolnough was charged with 12 counts of obtaining illegal abortions. Although Dr Jim Woolnough was later acquitted, a High Court appeal failed to overturn the not guilty verdict.

In 1975, Labour MP and SPUC member Gerard Wall’s ‘Hospital Amendment Act 1975’ passed into law. The ‘Hospital Amendment Act 1975’ limited legal abortion facilities available to hospitals.[15] The Act caused AMAC to close until it reopened in 1980 after buying a private hospital. Later, the Hospital Amendment Act was invalidated on technical grounds.[16] Bills such as the ‘Hospital Amendment Act 1975’ are still used by anti-abortion activists outside of New Zealand, notably in the USA, to limit abortion access. In 1976 AMAC was burned down in an arson attack, an extreme case of anti-abortion activism. The arson cost around $830,000 (inflated for modern terms) worth of damage.[17]

In response to the growing public discourse on abortion, parliament launched a Royal Commission on Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion to review and form public policy on each of the mentioned issues. The commission recommended a legal framework for abortion. As a result, the Third National Government passed the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977. The legal framework meant that a patient wishing to end a pregnancy had to see their doctor and another two medical consultants, who would look at the physical and mental grounds for carrying out an abortion; counselling was also available for women undertaking an abortion. In addition, the Crimes Act of 1961 was amended, allowing abortion within the 20 weeks gestation period. After the first 20 weeks, abortion was allowed to save the mother’s life and prevent serious and permanent harm to her mental and physical health. Although the Act was not without its critics, a feminist group known as Campaign to Oppose Repressive Abortion Laws (also known as CORAL) thought the Act was too restrictive on women’s reproductive rights.[18]

The 1980s-1990s : Activism after the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act

Through the 1980s, cases of anti-abortion and pro-choice activism continued. An extreme case of anti-abortion activism was ‘Operation Rescue New Zealand’ modelled after the American-based Randall Terry’s ‘Operation Rescue’. ‘Operation Rescue New Zealand’ used confrontational tactics such as picketing abortion clinics, harassing abortion patients, and distributing leaflets attacking abortion doctors as “baby killers.” More aggressive and dangerous tactics included breaking into buildings and operation theatres to disrupt abortions taking place. The anti-abortion movement denounced operation Rescue for its willingness to break the law, most notably by ‘Women for Life’ president Anetta Mortan.[19] SPUC’s leadership initially took the same route, starting as critical of Operation Rescue, but the leadership later relented and allowed its members to participate.[20] Operation Rescue had a massive Catholic component that included priests and clergy, and an estimated half of Operation Rescue’s supporters were also SPUC members. Operation New Zealand operated from the late 1980s to the early 1990s.

Brockie, Robert Ellison (Dr), 1932-. Brockie, Robert Ellison, 1932- :’Excuse me – is this the year 1481? And these auto-de-fe inquisitors presecuting the heretics, sinners, apostates & satanists?’ ‘No! 1989! And we’re here to harass desperate women and burn down the abortion clinic.’ ‘What’s the difference?’ National Business Review, 3 November 1989.. Various artists :[Collection of cartoon clippings, of works by Eric Heath, Nevile Lodge, Gordon Minhinnick, Neville Colvin, Les Gibbard. 1950-1980s].. Ref: A-311-4-025. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22671144

A large group of people in the garb of people of extreme views are gathered around the abortion clinic.

Person 1: ‘Excuse me – is this the year 1481? And these auto-de-fe inquisitors presecuting the heretics, sinners, apostates & satanists?’

Person 2: ‘No! 1989! And we’re here to harass desperate women and burn down the abortion clinic.’

Person 1:’What’s the difference?’

By Brockie, Robert Ellison

Pro-choice groups continued working on making abortion and sex education more accessible. Under the ‘Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977’, it was easier to obtain an abortion than ever before. As a result, abortion rights activists switched their attention to urging schools to have sex education and for young people to have easier access to contraceptives. After the abortion reforms of the ’70s and ’80s, ALRANZ began to lobby several hospital boards into establishing more abortion clinics and services across New Zealand.[21] From 1978 to 1986, the abortion section of the Crimes Act was amended to make abortion legal for cases of foetal abnormality, incest, age, and sexual violation.[22]The bulk of abortions in New Zealand happened at three locations: Epsom Day clinic in Auckland, Parkview Clinic in Wellington, and Lyndhurst Hospital in Christchurch.

Into the 21st Century and Beyond

As the 90s came around, the controversy surrounding abortion in the ’70s and ’80s began to dim, and anti-abortion activism began to slow.[23] There were still protests, but they had minimal effect. Although New Zealand law was still quite restrictive regarding abortion, abortion was generally available to women who needed it. When the 2000s arrived, anti-abortion activism started up again, and this time, they had an excellent new tool: the internet.[24]

Pro-abortion march in Wellington, in 1973. Shows a procession of demonstrators carrying banners. The sign in the foreground reads: “1893 vote for women, 1973 our right to abortion”. Others read: “Housewives are unpaid slaves”, “Abortion a woman’s right”, “Repeal all abortion laws”, and “Gay liberation”. A policeman walks on the right.

Photograph taken for the Evening Post newspaper by an unidentified photographer.

Pro-abortion march, Wellington. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/4-021373-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23120612

In the 2010s, a wave of pro-choice activists switched their focus on decriminalising abortion. Under the Crimes Act, abortion was still listed as a crime. This shift in focusing on decriminalisation was part of an international movement to make abortion legal for everyone. The New Zealand government introduced the Abortion Legislation Bill to parliament in 2019.[25] Enacted in 2020, the Bill removed abortion from the Crimes Act and made it a legal medical procedure that women were entitled to within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Women could receive an abortion without going through the previous consultation process, and doctors were no longer allowed the right to Conscientious objection over abortion.[26] After 20 weeks, women would need to consult two medical professionals to receive an abortion. Groups such as ALRANZ still lobby for further legalisation of abortion.

The past 120 years of New Zealand history have witnessed massive changes in public opinion on abortion, from the 1840s where abortion was frowned upon to now where abortion is an accepted right. Events such as World War Two, the baby boom that followed, and the sexual liberation movement of the 1960s have slowly brought about public acceptance of abortion and women’s rights. Over New Zealand history, abortion has caused divisions within religion, politics, and even within feminism. Today, abortion remains one of the most divisive topics In New Zealand and around the world. However, even though abortion has caused massive division, the activists of today and past have successfully advocated for abortion legalisation and women’s autonomy.


Ariana Strawbridge
Ariana Strawbridge

I am aspiring fiction writer, avid gamer, voracious reader, middling beauty blogger and obsessive history buff. I got involved with Women’s History of New Zealand because it was writing and history in one, and there’s not many things better than being able to write and engage with history.

Recommended Further Reading:

Fighting to Choose, a history of the abortion rights struggle in New Zealand by Alison McCulloch


Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Illegal but possible: 1840 to 1950s’, Te Ara – the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-1 (accessed 20 August 2021)


Margaret Sparrow, “A BRIEF HISTORY OF ABORTION LAWS IN NEW ZEALAND”, ALRANZ, http://alranz.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Abortion-Timeline-2020.pdf, March 2020

Bibliography:

Margaret Sparrow, “A BRIEF HISTORY OF ABORTION LAWS IN NEW ZEALAND”, ALRANZ, http://alranz.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Abortion-Timeline-2020.pdf, March 2020


Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Controversy: 1974 to 1980s’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-1 (accessed 20 August 2021)


McCulloch, Alison (2013). Fighting to Choose: The Abortion Rights Struggle in New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press.


Hunton RB. Māori Abortion practices in pre and early European New Zealand. N Z Med J. 1977 28 December;86(602):567-70. PMID:273782.


Gluckman LK. Abortion in the nineteenth century Māori: a historical and ethnopsychiatric review. N Z Med J. 1981 10 June;93(685):384-6. PMID: 7019788.


https://nzhistory.govt.nz/-’Anti-Abortion-March-Wellington,’ ‘Stories of women’s activism.’


‘1977 – key events’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/the-1970s/1977, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 10-May-2018


Auckland womens health council “Herstory”, https://www.womenshealthcouncil.org.nz/Features/Herstory.html, (accessed 20 August 2021)


New Zealand Legislation – Crimes Act 196, Crimes Act 1867
https://nzhistory.govt.nz/women-together/womens-national-abortion-action-campaign
Department of Health. Annual Report of Director General of Health, Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives.


ALRANZ “Our History”, http://alranz.org/past-and-present-tracy/, (accessed 20 August 2021)


Rosemary Du Plessis and Anne Scott, ‘Health advocacy and self-help – Women’s and men’s health organisations’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/28061/abortion-advocacy (accessed 1 December 2021)

Reference List:

[1] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Illegal but possible: 1840 to 1950s’, Te Ara – the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-1 (accessed 20 August 2021)


[2] Department of Health. Annual Report of Director General of Health, Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives.


[3] Baby farmers’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/baby-farmers, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 21-Jun-2016


[4] https://teara.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-1


[5] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Illegal but possible: 1840 to 1950s’, Te Ara – the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-1 (accessed 20 August 2021)


[6] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Illegal but possible: 1840 to 1950s’, Te Ara – the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-1 (accessed 20 August 2021)


[7]Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Illegal but possible: 1840 to 1950s’, Te Ara – the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-1 (accessed 20 August 2021)


[8] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Illegal but possible: 1840 to 1950s’, Te Ara – the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-1 (accessed 20 August 2021)


[9] ‘Anti-abortion march in Wellington’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/anti-abortion-march-wellington, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012


[10] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Controversy: 1974 to 1980s’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-4 (accessed 26 August 2021)


[11] ‘Stories of women’s activism’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/suffrage125/three-waves-of-womens-activism, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 27-Sep-2019


[12] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Abortion: 1990s to 21st century’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-5 (accessed 26 August 2021)


[13] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Controversy: 1974 to 1980s’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-4 (accessed 26 August 2021)


[14] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Controversy: 1974 to 1980s’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-4 (accessed 26 August 2021)


[15] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Controversy: 1974 to 1980s’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-4 (accessed 26 August 2021)


[16] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Controversy: 1974 to 1980s’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-4 (accessed 26 August 2021)


[17] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Controversy: 1974 to 1980s’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/29025/arson-attack (accessed 2 September 2021)


[18] McCulloch, Alison (2013). Fighting to Choose: The Abortion Rights Struggle in New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press. pp.177-180.


[19] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Abortion: 1990s to 21st century’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-5 (accessed 26 August 2021)


[20] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Abortion: 1990s to 21st century’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-5 (accessed 26 August 2021)


[21] McCulloch, Alison (2013). Fighting to Choose: The Abortion Rights Struggle in New Zealand. Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press.


[22] “Section 187 of Crimes Act 1961”. New Zealand Legislation. Parliamentary Counsel Office


[23] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Abortion: 1990s to 21st century’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-5 (accessed 26 August 2021)


[24] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Abortion: 1990s to 21st century’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-5 (accessed 11 November 2021)


[25] Megan Cook, ‘Abortion – Abortion: 1990s to 21st century’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/abortion/page-5 (accessed 26 August 2021)


[26] “Section 55 of Crimes Act 1867” New Zealand Legislation. Parliamentary Counsel Office.

Image Bibliography:

Image 1:

Pro abortion demonstration, Wellington. Dominion Post (Newspaper): Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP/1976/2253/30A-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23115081

Pro-abortion demonstration moving down Manners Street, Wellington. Photographed by an Evening Post staff photographer on the 23rd of June 1976.

This march was a protest against the National Government’s intention to “tidy up” the abortion issue. One of the fears relating to this was that the Government would close the Aotea private Hospital and thus restrict the oportunity for many women to have abortions. The march represented pro-abortion groups, and other women’s groups such as the Women’s Electoral Lobby.


Image 2:

A flier showing an illustration of a woman with her head resting on her arms. The first part of the text describes her situation: “She was told abortion was quite safe. The criminal abortionist who took her money said there was nothing to fear. But it wasn’t safe – it never is. And this girl has paid with her health, and is in danger of paying with her life”. There are statistics about the rate of abortion (13 induced abortions for every 100 births), and further text about the dangers to liver and kidneys, of sterility, sepsis, death. Abortion is described as a crime against the nation and against women themselves.

New Zealand. Department of Health. New Zealand. Department of Health :Abortion! Except on medical grounds, abortion is a crime. Let the new life be born! For a healthier nation. Issued by the Dept of Health. 4a [1944]. [Ephemera of quarto size, concerning abortion in New Zealand, 1970- ]. Ref: Eph-B-ABORTION-1944-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22791090


Image 3:

CHEMIST HAYNE. Committed for Trial on Abortion Charge. (NZ Truth, 26 November 1921). Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/5605377


Image 4:

Members of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child presenting their “Right-to-life” petition to the Minister of Health, Thomas McGuigan, circa 26 August 1975. Shows the members of SPUC holding cardboard boxes of petition forms while the Minister stands alongside. From left to right: Marilyn Pryor, Dr John Bergin, Dr Diana Mason, and Des Dalgety. Photograph taken by an unidentified Evening Post staff photographer, probably in Parliament buildings in Wellington.

Members of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child presenting their Right-to-life petition to the Minister of Health, Thomas McGuigan. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/4-022814-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22746633


Image 5:

Pro-choice demonstrators with banners outside parliament on the first day of the Woolnough case. The banners read: Let women decide for themselves; Drop the charges; Clinics not choice by cash; Unjust trial oppressive law; Clinics not knitting needles. Photograph taken 28 April 1975 by an Evening Post photographer.

Published in the Evening Post 28 April 1975

Source of descriptive information – Evening Post caption on back of file print

Pro-choice demonstrators with banners outside parliament on the first day of the Woolnough case. Dominion Post (Newspaper): Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP/1975/1697/7-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23020620


Image 6:

A large group of people in the garb of people of extreme views are gathered around the abortion clinic.

Brockie, Robert Ellison (Dr), 1932-. Brockie, Robert Ellison, 1932- :’Excuse me – is this the year 1481? And these auto-de-fe inquisitors presecuting the heretics, sinners, apostates & satanists?’ ‘No! 1989! And we’re here to harass desperate women and burn down the abortion clinic.’ ‘What’s the difference?’ National Business Review, 3 November 1989.. Various artists :[Collection of cartoon clippings, of works by Eric Heath, Nevile Lodge, Gordon Minhinnick, Neville Colvin, Les Gibbard. 1950-1980s].. Ref: A-311-4-025. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22671144


Image 7:


Pro-abortion demonstration moving down Manners Street, Wellington. Photographed by an Evening Post staff photographer on the 23rd of June 1976.

This march was a protest against the National Government’s intention to “tidy up” the abortion issue. One of the fears relating to this was that the Government would close the Aotea private Hospital and thus restrict the oportunity for many women to have abortions. The march represented pro-abortion groups, and other women’s groups such as the Women’s Electoral Lobby.

Pro-abortion march, Wellington. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/4-021373-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23120612

Published: December 2nd, 2021

Last modified: December 2nd, 2021

Cite as: Ariana Strawbridge, “A Brief History of Abortion”, Womens History of New Zealand, Last modified December 2021, https://atomic-temporary-193744190.wpcomstaging.com/a-brief-history-of-abortion/

Categories
Uncategorized

A Look at Early New Zealand : Victorian values

A Brief overview of early Victorian New Zealand

The Victorian period was a time of massive change in New Zealand. People were traveling to make New Zealand, to settle in the colonies. This was a time of bringing old values and culture to a new land. For Māori the Victorian period introduced a forced change to ways of life. The main theme of this era was adapting – adapting to a land, to others, to a new life, to new governance. The Victoria era matches the reign of Queen Victoria in England, from 1827 to 1901.

This period marks a huge increase of immigrants arriving to New Zealand from a range of countries, such as Italy, Scandinavia, Germany and Australia. Despite the range of nationalities, 90% of these were born Irish and British.[1] The reasons why people would chose to endure such a long and dangerous journey are varied. The journey by sea (from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) took 100 days in cramped conditions, with travellers enduring rough seas and illness.[2] For some, it was the promise of land and the potential to find gold during the boom around 1861[3]. For others it was to aid in war, such as that in 1860. From 1871, the New Zealand government increased the attraction of such a move by offering assistance, such as cheap tickets or fares to travel to the country, or the promise of free land.

Procession celebrating Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, Trafalgar Street, Nelson.
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22805469

Many immigrants from Europe had rural backgrounds, having worked in agriculture or building roles. Because of this, it’s thought that they will have seen New Zealand as an opportunity to be more independent by living off the land. People who arrived wanted to find somewhere to settle and build a new life rather than move on. Immigrants had been encouraged to bring musical instruments for the journey, of which many did. It led to a varied taste for music in New Zealand; from classical favourites to ballads and songs which reflected feelings of nostalgia for the country left behind, or patriotism for their new home. During this time, styles of dance varied, as did the social status of the dancers – this was just to make up numbers at these events. Opera, choral groups and later brass bands became a part of the entertainment landscape also.[4] Some of the British culture was brought across with the new settlers. At the end of the century the influence showed through the playing of rugby, cricket and in the history and literature that was taught to students.[5]

Group portrait of a Wanganui brass band.
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23009666

Values were largely centered around the community. Many people practised both Māori and Christian religious activities. The focus of the community was the marae – for song, hospitality, haka and other activities. Few young people would go on to do secondary education and would spend their time at the cinema, dances or youth clubs, while Saturdays were spent playing tennis, hockey and rugby.[6] Māori and Pākēha people would unite to compete in a variety of sports. Horse Racing was the first favourite, until popularity for rugby soared.[7] In 1888 – 1889, teams (which included mostly – but not exclusively – Māori) toured England, Australia and New Zealand to represent their country in rugby.

The settlers women’s roles during this time were domestic – the attitudes towards the settler women were that they be providers in the home; servants, wives, mothers and nurtures that would work behind the scenes while the men openly handled other matters like trade. English common law meant that the husband or father was the head of the family, leaving the woman with little rights – even over property or her own children. Even through education, girls were taught to sew, cook and look after babies to shape them for their duties in adulthood. This helped towards the idea that a strong New Zealand consisted of women remaining as the homemakers while the men went out to work.[8]

Unidentified family group.
Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23186763

This had detrimental effects for Māori women, whose beliefs with powerful female influences were diluted and retold by Pāhēka men with a shift towards male characters. While men and women had once been equal to provide for the whanau, and women being able to work on the farm and help in family businesses, this would be interfered with. Immigrant ideals of the male as the head of the household would taint and take over this equality. The immigrant attitudes also coloured attitudes towards Māori women, believing them to belong to their husband. They were also seen as potential bedmates but also as a source of economic security. Marriage was another custom to be affected for the Māori population, which merged with the legal framework and ceremony known to the settlers.[9]

However, these traditional settler attitudes were brought into question with the suffrage movement in the 1890s, which led to New Zealand to be the first self-governing country to grant women the vote. Although women would still have a long journey ahead to achieve political equality, it was a strong start. Overall, the Victorian period must have been a mixed experience in New Zealand. For the Māori community these changes would change their lives and typical routines, as trade options changed. As immigrants arrived, aspects of their lives were threatened such as land ownership – leading to wars and hostilities. For the settlers, the period will have been marked by hope for a new home and a new life, but also tinged with the sadness of a home they had left behind.


Lisa Cooke
Lisa Cooke

Women’s history is important to me as it shapes our culture and our future. It teaches us to be grateful for the progress that has been made, but also not to be complacent as we strive for better equality (for all people). I love writing and researching and Women’s History NZ has given me an outlet to be creative and learn more about the world. 

Recommended Further Reading

Mark Derby, ‘Daily life in Māori communities – te noho a te hapori – Changes in daily life after European arrival’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/daily-life-in-maori-communities-te-noho-a-te-hapori/page-2 (accessed 5 September 2021)


Coney, Sandra. 1993. Standing in the Sunshine: A History of New Zealand Women since they Won the Vote. Auckland, N.Z: Penguin.


‘Summary’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/immigration/home-away-from-home/summary, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 8-Dec-2014, (accessed 5 September 2021)


Brookes, Barbara L. 2016. A History of New Zealand Women. Wellington, New Zealand: Bridget Williams Books.

Bibliography:

‘Summary’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/immigration/home-away-from-home/summary, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 8-Dec-2014, (accessed 5 September 2021)


Jock Phillips, ‘History of immigration’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/history-of-immigration (accessed 5 September 2021)


Chris Bourke, ‘Popular music – Early settlers, 18th and early 19th centuries’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/popular-music/page-2 (accessed 5 September 2021)


‘Conclusions’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/home-away-from-home/conclusions, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 9-Dec-2014 (accessed 5 September 2021)


Mark Derby, ‘Daily life in Māori communities – te noho a te hapori – Changes in daily life after European arrival’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/daily-life-in-maori-communities-te-noho-a-te-hapori/page-2 (accessed 5 September 2021)


Mark Derby, ‘Māori–Pākehā relations – Sport and race’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/maori-pakeha-relations/page-4 (accessed 5 September 2021)


Annie Mikaere, ‘MAORI WOMEN: CAUGHT IN THE CONTRADICTIONS OF A COLONISED REALITY’, The University of Waikato, https://www.waikato.ac.nz/law/research/waikato_law_review/pubs/volume_2_1994/7 (accessed 5 September 2021)


Ian Pool and Rosemary Du Plessis, ‘Families: a history’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/families-a-history/print (accessed 5 September 2021)


Unidentified family group. Harding, William James, 1826-1899 :Negatives of Wanganui district. Ref: 1/4-017172-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23186763

Reference List:

[1] ‘Summary’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/immigration/home-away-from-home/summary, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 8-Dec-2014, (accessed 5 September 2021)


[2] Jock Phillips, ‘History of immigration’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/history-of-immigration (accessed 5 September 2021)


[3] ‘Summary’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/immigration/home-away-from-home/summary, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 8-Dec-2014, (accessed 5 September 2021)


[4] Chris Bourke, ‘Popular music – Early settlers, 18th and early 19th centuries’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/popular-music/page-2 (accessed 5 September 2021)


[5] ‘Conclusions’, URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/home-away-from-home/conclusions, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 9-Dec-2014 (accessed 5 September 2021)


[6] Mark Derby, ‘Daily life in Māori communities – te noho a te hapori – Changes in daily life after European arrival’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/daily-life-in-maori-communities-te-noho-a-te-hapori/page-2 (accessed 5 September 2021)


[7] Mark Derby, ‘Māori–Pākehā relations – Sport and race’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/maori-pakeha-relations/page-4 (accessed 5 September 2021)


[8]  Annie Mikaere, ‘Māori women: caught in the contradictions of a colonised reality’, The University of Waikato, https://www.waikato.ac.nz/law/research/waikato_law_review/pubs/volume_2_1994/7 (accessed 5 September 2021)


[9] Ian Pool and Rosemary Du Plessis, ‘Families: a history’, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/families-a-history/print (accessed 5 September 2021)

Image Bibliography:

Image 1:

Shows head and shoulders portrait of fifty members of the Royal family, including Queen Victoria in the centre, and her late husband Prince Albert.

Blundell Brothers Ltd. [The Royal family]. Jubilee supplement to the Evening Post, Wellington, Saturday June 18, 1887. Published by Blundell Bros.. Ref: Eph-D-ROYAL-1887-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22895715


Image 2:

Procession celebrating Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, Trafalgar Street, Nelson

Procession celebrating Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, Trafalgar Street, Nelson. Tyree Studio: Negatives of Nelson and Marlborough districts. Ref: 10X8-0194-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22805469


Image 3:

Group portrait of a Wanganui brass band

Group portrait of a Wanganui brass band. Ref: 1/2-011756-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23009666


Image 4:

Unidentified family group

Unidentified family group. Harding, William James, 1826-1899 :Negatives of Wanganui district. Ref: 1/4-017172-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23186763

Published: November 5th, 2021

Last modified: November 5th, 2021

Cite as: Lisa Cooke, “A Look at Early New Zealand : Victorian values”, Womens History of New Zealand, Last modified November 2021, https://atomic-temporary-193744190.wpcomstaging.com/camellia-flowers-symbolism-suffrage-new-zealand/

Categories
Uncategorized

The Pink Triangle

The Pink Triangle was a publication focused on strengthening the gay liberation movement. It provided a platform for radical issues in New Zealand such as queer rights, Māori land rights, abortion, feminism and much more.

The Pink Triangle was a lesbian and gay newspaper published in New Zealand by the National Gay Rights Coalition of New Zealand (NGRC). Beginning officially in May 1979, original editors Hugh Gaw and Jan Gee chose the name to identify with the persecution of gays and lesbians during the Holocaust by the Nazis. The symbol had moved “from a symbol of degradation to a symbol, it has been adopted by the international gay community as a symbol of pride.”[1] Having chosen their name, they sought to spread their message throughout the gay community in New Zealand and raise political awareness for liberated gays and lesbians.

Pink Triangle’s pages were littered with advertisements and notices for other lesbian and gay groups throughout New Zealand and the world. The National Gay Rights Coalition advertised the names and locations of their constituent groups throughout New Zealand and how often they met, in an effort to build their network and membership.[3] Pink Triangle also attempted to build more global coalitions and look beyond lesbian and gay activism in New Zealand. Their subscription notices list prices for both the United Kingdom and the United States, aiming to grow and support gay movements abroad. They also published news about homosexuality in different countries, spanning from warrants for the arrest of Ayatollah Khomeini to news about homosexuality in China and London.[4]  

An image calling on lesbians to unite appearing alongside a lesbian-separatist piece in the Pink Triangle. Credit for all images in this article goes to Pink Triangle.

Because Pink Triangle drew its ideas and theory from US gay liberation, feminism formed an important part of its ethos in the earliest issues. Attempts to give equal weight to lesbian and gay issues are clear, as well as the institutional setting of having two editors, one gay man and one lesbian woman. The editors noted “we now have two editors… this is an encouraging move in the co-operation of all gay people against the fight against the oppression of sexism.”[5] This coalition did not always produce a fruitful or cordial alliance. Reflecting earlier patterns of lesbian-feminist separatism in the United States, lesbian feminists who read Pink Triangle challenged gay men on their sexism, and at one point issued a stark warning to gay men “unless male homosexuals seriously consider the questions lesbian-feminists are posing, there can be no united homosexual movement.”[6]

Commitment to a wide range of radical causes at the time permeated the pages of Pink Triangle, including radical and lesbian feminism but also environmental conservation, Māori land rights, and international student rights. In a tirade against the government’s ignorance of a Human Rights Commission report, the editors railed against the “anti-woman laws on abortion, the government’s vicious activities on Māori land rights, and racist policies on fees for international students.”[7] They also published contact details for groups like Greenpeace, making clear their commitment to a broad range of issues that intersected but were not explicitly linked to their own cause.[8]

A cover of Pink Triangle from 1985 featuring Labour MP Fran Wilde, sponsor of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill. (Credit for image goes to Pink Triangle.)

Pink Triangle also published material in support of trans rights groups, promoting separate trans groups seeking to achieve their own goals, rather than direct coalition-building with them. They reproduced materials from Hedesthia, a trans rights groups in New Zealand, and provided clear information for their readers who might not have understood trans issues as well as they did homosexuality.[9] Hedesthia’s messaging focused on the constructed nature of gender and its separateness from sex, helping to break down male-female dichotomies within the gay community. Over the years the style and print variety of Pink Triangle changed significantly as editors and priorities changed. Throughout the mid-1980s, Pink Triangle published a large amount of coverage of the homosexual law reform bill, to shore up support for the bill and encourage people to come out in support.[10]

A Glossy Front Cover of Pink Triangle from the early 1990s, clearly marketed towards gay men. (Credit for the image goes to Pink Triangle.)

In other periods it focused more on society and culture, rather than explicit political engagement, with issues on the cover not advertising political activity but rather “an erotic guide to gay men” and “Italianissimo! Food and Fashion”.[11] Over time, Pink Triangle shifted to produce a much more holistic guide to gay and lesbian life in New Zealand, a sharp change from their radical political origins. Feminism became less prominent in Pink Triangle as time went on. The emphasis on gay male lifestyle after 1986 meant that little of the content was concerned with lesbian life, as some pointed out in letters to the editor.[12] But in its beginnings Pink Triangle blazed a radical gay liberationist trail, linking homosexual oppression to patriarchal oppression and attempting to build radical coalitions with like-minded people to achieve positive outcomes. Though it followed the commercial trends of the later 1980s and liberalization of gay politics generally, it made a significant contribution to promoting a litany of radical gay and lesbian voices in the early 1980s.


Liam Perkins
Liam Perkins

I’m Liam, I am 23, currently working on my MA project in US queer history in the 1970s.
I got involved with WHNZ to learn more about New Zealand history and contribute material to a database that would help others do so, as well as practice writing for different audiences. I really enjoy being able to learn and write about new topics on regular basis and helping others to do so.

Recommended Further Reading:

Else, Anne (ed.) Women Together: a History of Women’s Organisations in New Zealand. Ngā Rōpū Wāhine o te Motu, Daphne Brasell Associates Press and Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington, 1993, p 98-99

Rowland, Robyn (ed) Women Who Do and Women Who Don’t Join the Women’s Movement: London: Routledge Kegan Paul: 1984

 ‘Connie Purdue’ New Zealand History https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/connie-purdue Ministry for Culture and Heritage, updated 4 Nov 2020 (retrieved 5 July 2021)

Bibliography:
  • Atmore, Chris, ‘Lesbians and PT.” Pink Triangle, October 1988.
  • Bebbington, Laurie, Lyons, Margaret, ‘Homosexuality and Feminism.’ Pink Triangle, 6 August 1979.
  • Gautlett, Sandy, ‘Greenpeace and Project Jonah.’ Pink Triangle, May 1980.
  • Gaw, Hugh, Gee, Jan, ‘Editorial.’ Pink Triangle, 14 May 1979.
  • Hedesthia. Pink Triangle, August 1979.
  • Pink Triangle, 25 May 1979.
  • Pink Triangle, 29 October 1979.
  • Pink Triangle, August 1987.
  • NA, ‘Gays, Dykes Hit Back.’ Pink Triangle, June 1985.
  • Waghorne, Mike, ‘“Human Rights” Commission.’ Pink Triangle, March 1980.
Reference List:

[1] Hugh Gaw, Jan Gee, ‘Editorial.’ Pink Triangle, 14 May 1979. p. 2.

[2] Pink Triangle, 25 May 1979. p. 1.

[3] Pink Triangle, 25 May 1979. p. 8.

[4] Pink Triangle, 29 October 1979. p. 6.

[5] Hugh Gaw, Jan Gee, ‘Editorial.’ Pink Triangle, 14 May 1979. p. 2.

[6] Laurie Bebbington, Margaret Lyons, ‘Homosexuality and Feminism.’ Pink Triangle, 6 August 1979. p. 2.

[7] Mike Waghorne, ‘“Human Rights” Commission.’ Pink Triangle, March 1980. p. 3.

[8] Sandy Gautlett, ‘Greenpeace and Project Jonah.’ Pink Triangle, May 1980. p. 3.

[9] Hedesthia. Pink Triangle, August 1979. p. 7.

[10] NA, ‘Gays, Dykes Hit Back.’ Pink Triangle, June 1985. p. 2.

[11] Pink Triangle, August 1987. p. 1.

[12] Chris Atmore, ‘Lesbians and PT.” Pink Triangle, October 1988. p. 47.

Image Bibliography:
  1. Pink Triangle’s First Logo. (Credit for image goes to Pink Triangle.)
  2. An image calling on lesbians to unite appearing alongside a lesbian-separatist piece in PT. (Credit for image goes to Pink Triangle.)
  3. A cover of Pink Triangle from 1985 featuring Labour MP Fran Wilde, sponsor of the Homosexual Law Reform Bill. (Credit for image goes to Pink Triangle.)
  4. A Glossy Front Cover of Pink Triangle from the early 1990s, clearly marketed towards gay men. (Credit for image goes to Pink Triangle.)

Published: September 16, 2021

Last modified: January 5th, 2022

Cite as: Liam Perkins, The Pink Triangle, Womens History of New Zealand, Last modified January 2022, https://atomic-temporary-193744190.wpcomstaging.com/the-pink-triangle/

Categories
Uncategorized

The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective

The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective has been critical to advancing the rights, safety, health and wellbeing of sex workers in Aotearoa.

The New Zealand Prostitutes Collective (NZPC) [1] was established in 1987 to seek equal rights for sex workers. It formed in response to an increase in HIV in New Zealand and sex workers being harassed and arrested by Police.[2] The sex workers who established the NZPC were a mix of “masseuses” working in massage parlours and private houses, as well as trans- and cis-gendered women who worked on the street. One founding member said, “people started to talk about us as if we were a force to be reckoned with. This is really when we realised we were becoming an organisation.”[3]

Image: the Wellington premises of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective in 1988. The image shows an open door, with 282 written above it. There are signs on the wall saying “if you don’t wear this Joe you’re a dick” and “absolutely positively committed to stopping aids”. https://teara.govt.nz/en/speech/29374/new-zealand-prostitutes-collective-premises

In 1988, following conversations between the NZPC and the Minister for Health, the NZPC began providing HIV/AIDS prevention services to sex workers across the country. During the 1980s, the Government funded a number of community-based services focused on preventing HIV/AIDS.[4] In contrast to the other services provided, the NZPC focused on promoting safe sex for sex workers, by providing information, support services and an opportunity to meet other sex workers. By 2000, the NZPC had three clinics that offered free sexual health to sex workers. These clinics were located in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Today, the NZPC has offices in Auckland, Tauranga, Hamilton, Hawkes Bay, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

In 1989, the NZPC began advocating for the decriminalisation of sex work. They formed strong relationships with the Department of Health and pushed for an interdepartmental committee to review the laws surrounding sex work. This was in response to police raids and arrests in the early 1990s, where condoms were used as evidence to convict sex workers of prostitution-related offences.[5]

The Prostitution Reform Bill was introduced to Parliament in October 2000. The NZPC was the driving force behind the Bill. Oral hearings on the Bill began in 2001. The Select Committee examined 222 individual submissions, heard 66 oral submissions and spent more than 42 hours discussing the Bill. The Prostitution Reform Act was passed into law on 27 June 2003. It was a large step forward for sex workers rights in New Zealand, and the NZPC was the driving force behind the law change.

In 2008 the Prostitution Law Review Committee found that the Prostitution Reform Act “has had a marked effect in safeguarding the right of sex workers to refuse particular clients and practices, chiefly by empowering sex workers through removing the illegality of their work.”[6] In 2018, Dame Catherine Healy, who has been the National Coordinator of the NZPC since its inception, was awarded a New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the rights of sex workers.

Image: Dame Catherine Healy receiving the New Zealand Order of Merit from Dame Patsy Reddy https://gg.govt.nz/file/25572

In more recent years, the NZPC has focused on the rights of migrant sex workers. Migrants who require visas to work in New Zealand are prohibited from working in the sex industry, which creates inequality and unsafe working conditions for migrant sex workers.[7] While the Prostitution Reform Act 2003 greatly contributed to improved working conditions for the majority of sex workers, this has not been the case for migrant sex workers.

The NZPC has been critical to advancing the rights, safety, health and wellbeing of sex workers in Aotearoa. It has done this through service provision, advocating for legal rights, forming strong relationships with politicians, government agencies and community organisations and by keeping their approach ‘by sex workers, for sex workers’. The NZPC continues to promote sex workers rights and advocate for change, both in Aotearoa and internationally.


Rosie Anderson
Rosie Anderson

Hey, I’m Rosie. I am a public servant, feminist, avid reader and ocean lover. Women are great and I’m keen to share their stories with all of you!


Recomended Further Reading:

Bibliography:

Aotearoa New Zealand Sex Workers Collective. (2021). Historyhttps://www.nzpc.org.nz/History.

Community Research. (2013). Occupational Safety and Health of Migrant Sex Workers in New Zealand. https://communityresearch.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/formidable/Roguski-2013-OSH-of-migrant-sex-workers-in-NZ.pdf.

Government House. (2021). Dame Catherine Healy, of Lower Hutt, DNZM, for services to the rights of sex workers. https://gg.govt.nz/file/25572.

Ministry of Justice. (2005). The Sex Industry in New Zealand: A Literature Review. https://www.justice.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Publications/sex-industry-in-nz.pdf.

New Zealand Legislation. (2003). Prostitution Reform Act. https://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2003/0028/latest/DLM197815.html.

Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. (2021). New Zealand Prostitutes’ Collective Premises. https://teara.govt.nz/en/speech/29374/new-zealand-prostitutes-collective-premises.

Reference List:

[1] (NZPC)

[2] (Aotearoa New Zealand Sex Workers Collective, 2021)

[3] (Aoteaora New Zealand Sex Workers Collective, 2021).

[4] (Te Ara, 2018).

[5] (Global Network of Sex Projects, 2017)

[6] (Aoteaora New Zealand Sex Workers Collective, 2021).

[7] (Occupational Safety and Health of Migrant Sex Workers in New Zealand, 2013).

Image Bibliography:
  1. [Image: the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective with a sign saying “Hey Ho! Let’s Go! Our right to say yes, our right to say no!” https://www.nswp.org/fr/node/3201.]
  2. [Image: the Wellington premises of the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective in 1988. The image shows an open door, with 282 written above it. There are signs on the wall saying “if you don’t wear this Joe you’re a dick” and “absolutely positively committed to stopping aids”. https://teara.govt.nz/en/speech/29374/new-zealand-prostitutes-collective-premises]
  3. [Image: Dame Catherine Healy receiving the New Zealand Order of Merit from Dame Patsy Reddy https://gg.govt.nz/file/25572].
Categories
Uncategorized

The National Council of Women

The National Council of Women, formed in 1896 and striving for gender equality ever since

Article Tags

1896 – 1906:

The National Council of Women New Zealand (most commonly know as the NCW) was formed on  13 April 1896, as a result of the International Council of Women’s (ICW) proposal for the establishment of a New Zealand branch of the organisation. The council’s first meeting took place in Ōtautahi (Christchurch) and was organised by founding members Kate Sheppard, Marion Hatton and Ada Wells. It gathered around 25 representatives from 11 women’s groups[1] across New Zealand and soon elected Sheppard as its president.

The minutes from the first NCW meeting outline its  mission: ‘[to] unite all organised Societies of Women for mutual counsel and co-operation, and in the attainment of justice and freedom for women, and for all that makes for the good of humanity.[2] This mission would set the basis for what the NCW would do for the next  10 years.

The NCW quickly became an active part of New Zealand society, conducting campaigns it thought would introduce a more moral way of life. Some of  its first initiatives focused on:

  • increasing the legal age for a woman’s consent to sexual intercourse to 21
  • including women on boards and councils
  • strictly enforcing laws concerning liquor
  • establishing homes for alcoholics

The council was also particularly interested in education, asking for schools to provide free and longer education, to support those who were disadvantaged, and to provide knowledge on the effect of alcoholic consumption on the body. A large number of council members were teachers which also encouraged acknowledgement of the NCW and its efforts to reduce the gender wage gap.

The council’s values were largely based around family and the power of women’s domesticity. As recorded by H.K Lovell Smith[3], the NCW desired:  ‘to bring the woman spirit and the home atmosphere into the affairs as well of the State as of the parish.’[4] The NCW  was able to gain society’s approval through its family values, as they fit society’s ideals of moralistic femininity.

Image 2 of Kate Sheppard: International Women’s Day, 8 March – Kate Sheppard. (2021). Retrieved 1 August 2021, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/archivesnz/16008456223

But when the council turned these values into actions, people began to develop a more critical opinion of the group. For example, the NCW fought for gender equality in marriage. It campaigned for equal rights in divorce for both sexes, abolishing the ‘doctrine of ‘possession’, establishing the economic independence of married women through ‘a law attaching a just share of her husband’s earnings or income for her separate use’, and making the conditions of divorce for men and women equal.’[5] These suggestions were seen as controversial and received a negative reaction from the public.

Although the NCW sought to create a society where women were equal,  its membership did not conform to these ideals. The NCW could be considered Classist in the way it maintained a significant middle-class membership. It was not inclusive of all women, yet it claimed to represent all women and ‘the moral good’.

As a result of the council’s exclusive, unjust attitude and misrepresentation of its cause, member Anna Stout decided to resign from the council in 1897. Stout held strong connections to government circles and her absence contributed to the decline in the success of the NCW’s activism and its consequent loss of support. This, as well as the public dislike for its discussion of radical topics, greatly contributed to the council’s going into recess in 1906.

1916-recent:

World War I saw an increase of women in the workforce and related issues that members of the NCW thought should be addressed. This inspired efforts to revive the council by Kate Sheppard, writer Jessie Mackay, and NCW secretary Christina Henderson, who set up an NCW reconvention in 1918.

In 1919, a meeting was held. It outlined the general goals of the reformed council in a  keynote address prepared by Sheppard and presented to  10 delegates of the NCW by lawyer Ellen Melville. This was publicised through print and widely distributed, and the NCW was once again active in New Zealand. Some of the revived council’s initial achievements included the establishment of a Wellington Intelligence Committee and the demand for the appointment of women as Justices of the Peace, jurors, and police.

By 1956, during the second wave of feminism, NCW members were keen debaters on the topic of family planning and young people’s access to contraceptives outside of marriage. The council actively participated in initiatives for equal pay, fair employment opportunities, and the Government Service Equal Pay Act of 1960 and the Equal Pay Act of 1972.

By the 1990s, during the third wave of feminism, the NCW began to develop more initiatives on women’s health, supporting women who had come out of a de facto relationship and addressing violence in society. The 1990s brought about a change in the way young girls were educated in schools: The NCW  was previously supportive of teaching girls domestic subjects but began pushing the idea that girls should be taught male-dominated subjects such as science and mathematics, as well as teaching domestic subjects to both genders alike. The NCW stepping away from the idea that women were inherently moral and domestic, as previous councils had thought.

Vanisa Dhiru. (2021). Retrieved 1 August 2021, from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/vanisa-dhiru

The NCW is still an active part of New Zealand society and is run with six representatives of a board and a current president, being Suzanne Manning, elected June 2021.

Although it has been working toward equal rights since its beginnings in 1896, the council now represents modern thought, a more feminist kind of activism and is inclusive of many more groups and ideas. Today the council focuses on four key areas: safety and health, economic independence, education, and influence and decision-making. Recently, Lisa Lawrence (Ngati Kahungunu) became the council’s first ever Maori president and was elected in 2020. 

These values and displays of diversity  are a contrast from the largely family orientated and selective council that the NCW  once was.“[We want to make] sure that any person of any race, any class or creed doesn’t have anything against them in terms of being female or male…New Zealand needs to wake up to the fact that it doesn’t matter what you look like, you can do and be what you want to be.”[6]  said Vanisa Dhiru, a former president of the NCW.


Share and support this content!


Izzy France
Izzy France

Hi I’m Izzy! I am a student and feminist enthusiastic about changing society for the better by creating a more inclusive and equal New Zealand. I have a passion for the past and working with WHNZ has given me the opportunity to pursue my interest in New Zealand women’s history and share it with others! – Izzy

Bibliography

Image Reference

  1. Image 1 of the first NCW meeting: File: National Council of Women (13587153825).jpg – Wikimedia Commons. (2014). Retrieved 1 August 2021, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:National_Council_of_Women_(13587153825).jpg
  1. Image 2 of Kate Sheppard: International Women’s Day, 8 March – Kate Sheppard. (2021). Retrieved 1 August 2021, from https://www.flickr.com/photos/archivesnz/16008456223
  1. Image 3 of Vanisa Dhuru on ‘gender equal’ campaign: Vanisa Dhiru. (2021). Retrieved 1 August 2021, from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/vanisa-dhiru

References

[1] Statistics from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/women-together/national-council-women-new-zealand

[2] (2021). Retrieved 28 July 2021, from http://www.nzjh.auckland.ac.nz/docs/1993/NZJH_27_2_04.pdf

[3] The National Council of the Women of New Zealand, 1901, Wanganui, 1901, p.28, 1902. Gisborne, 1902, p.26, H.K.. Lovell-Smith Papers, 1376/3, 4. WTU.

[4] )2021). Retrieved 28 July 2021, from http://www.nzjh.auckland.ac.nz/docs/1993/NZJH_27_2_04.pdf

[5] National Council of Women of New Zealand | NZHistory, New Zealand history online. (1896). Retrieved 28 July 2021, from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/women-together/national-council-women-new-zealand

[6] Vanisa Dhiru. (2021). Retrieved 1 August 2021, from https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/vanisa-dhiru