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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/

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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

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
Liam Perkins

The Topp Twins

The Topp Twins – Musicians, Comedians, Activists.

Lynda and Jools Topp, better known as the Topp Twins are a musical performing duo hailing from Huntly. The twin sisters, known for their eclectic[1]  sense of humour and musical style which incorporates yodelling and elements of country, originally got their start performing at gigs in Christchurch before becoming involved in the feminist movement in the late 1970s.[1]

Their musical style derives from a mix of old Australian yodel music from the 1930s, difficult to get a hold of when the twins were growing up in the small farming town of Huntly.[2] The Twins learned their singing and yodelling craft alongside horse riding and farming, adding to their earthy sense of style and humour.[3] Their feminist politics and sexuality, as well as their distinct sense of humour, have been a part of their performances since the late 1970s. Though they originally began performing musically as a duo, they expanded rapidly to include skits and other performances during their shows.[4] The Twins wrote and performed the track Freedom for the 1978 United Women’s Convention, demonstrating their second wave feminist consciousness and activism. Jools Topp stated in 1980 that “‘Freedom’ is a real fighting song, a powerful song. We only sing it when we’re doing a women’s concert or when there are other women on stage.”[5]

The Topp Twins performing in support of lesbian and gay rights. Source: Stuff. https://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/tv-radio/95592642/topp-twins-lives-laid-bare-on-the-walls-of-te-manawa

The song encompassed much of what second wave feminism was about in New Zealand in the late 1970s and 1980s, with the emphasis on women’s freedom and power to do anything.[6] The Twins also wrote songs that dealt explicitly with their lesbianism, such as Paradise, and other feminist anthems such as Sisterhood, which boldly stated “Bring all the ladies together/Bring ’em all together to be strong/We’ll give you something worth fighting for/We’ve been fighting for nothing too long/And it’s called sisterhood/Yes, it’s called sisterhood.”[7] Their country style music blended with their sense of humour has engaged audiences the world over, including in Australia, the UK, the US, and Canada. They have also forayed into television and often performed as a host of different characters in their performances, shifting “character, musical style and gender with ease.”[10] Their host of rotating characters and performances have included a range of satirized people from New Zealand culture, including urban/rural blokes, camping ground operators, ‘posh’ socialites, and bowling ladies.

A 2009 film, Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls, told the story of the Twins life on their 50th birthdays. The film, “ Part concept film, part biopic, part historical record and part comedy”, directed by Leanne Pooley, shared the links between the Topp Twins’ personalities, activism, performances, and symbols of New Zealand culture, while displaying their wide range of characters and styles of performance.[11] The Topp Twins have won a range of accolades throughout their long career. In 2008 they were inducted into the New Zealand Music Hall of Fame, and in 2011 granted honorary doctorates from the University of Waikato. In 2018, Queen Elizabeth II made the Topp Twins Dame Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit for their services to entertainment.[12] The Topp Twins’ long-term success derives from their unique sense of humour, shifting characters and creativity, advocacy on a range of important social issues, and versatility in a wide variety of media.

The Topp Twins in character as Ken and Ken. Source: https://topptwins.com/pages/about-us

For the Topp Twins, moving around New Zealand and later the world provided thrilling opportunities to engage with a wide range of people and the chance to engage in feminist politics, particularly lesbian feminist politics, a strong issue in the late 1970s.[8] The Topp Twins’ artistry and politics have never been fully separated, and the twins were involved in a range of political causes, especially in the 1980s, including the Springbok Tour Protests, anti-nuclear NZ campaigns, and homosexual law reform. During the late 1990s, the Topp Twins moved into television programming with Do Not Adjust Your Twinset, which captivated audiences with its distinct mix of characters, which the Twins also performed as in live shows, and enabled them to reach a wide range of audiences outside of New Zealand. Do Not Adjust Your Twinset ran for three seasons, winning awards across New Zealand and Australia.[9]

The Topp Twins have made an undeniable impact on New Zealand media and their creative play with gender and sexuality in performance has normalized queer identities for the wider New Zealand public, especially in the 1980s when both the AIDS crisis and homosexual law reform were at their most contentious.[13 The Topp Twins are still active today, still performing and speaking out about a range of contemporary issues, including water rights and preservation, cancer issues, and leading in organizing events such as the Busker’s festival.


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:

Bibliography:

Image Bibliography:
  1. The Topp Twins in the early 1980s. Source: RNZ https://www.rnz.co.nz/programmes/ours/story/2018647507/the-topp-twins-and-the-dolls
  2. The Topp Twins in the early 1980s. Source: RNZ https://www.rnz.co.nz/programmes/ours/story/2018647507/the-topp-twins-and-the-dolls
  3. The Topp Twins performing in support of lesbian and gay rights. Source: Stuff. https://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/tv-radio/95592642/topp-twins-lives-laid-bare-on-the-walls-of-te-manawa
  4. The Topp Twins in character as Ken and Ken. Source: https://topptwins.com/pages/about-us

Published: August 6th, 2021

Last modified: January 5th, 2022

Cite as: Tim McVicar, Connie Purdue – Activist and “Anti-Feminist”, Womens History of New Zealand, Last modified January 2022, https://womenshistorynz.com/connie-purdue/


Categories
Tim Mcvicar

Connie Purdue – Activist and “Anti-Feminist”

Communist to Catholic, Labour to National – how Connie’s later perspectives contrasted years of advocacy for equal rights. “I learned very early not to put up with things … you can change things.”

Connie Purdue dedicated her life to agitating for social change. Her ideological positions shifted during her long life. Once an avowed communist, trade unionist and member of the Labour Party, she became a committed Catholic, National Party member, anti-abortion advocate and ‘anti-feminist.’[2] Throughout her life, the rights and duties of women were at the forefront of her activism. As a confrontational activist, she played a crucial and clarifying role in second-wave feminism in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when movements championing social liberalisation conflicted with her conservative morality.

Constance Miriam Purdue (née Soljak) was born in 1912 and grew up in Northcote, Auckland. Her father, Peter Soljak, was a Croatian-born gum digger and restauranter while her mother, Miriam Soljak (née Cummings), was a notable leftist political activist and founding member of the New Zealand Family Planning Association. Purdue credited her interest in political activism to her mother and the challenges she faced being married to a Dalmatian during the First-World War.[3] Soljak lost her English citizenship because of her marriage and was forced to register as an enemy alien.[4] With her seventh child on the way, Soljak registered as an alien but made the constable witness she did so, ‘under protest.’ Soljak subsequently joined the Women’s Branch of the Labour Party and the International Women’s League for Peace and Freedom and had the law changed. Motivated by her mother’s political idealism, Purdue spent her life protesting injustices in New Zealand society.

At the age of five, she was hospitalised after she contracted tuberculosis in a knee joint from unpasteurised milk. Later in life, she noted that “most of life has been pain[ful]” due to the TB.[5] She spent some time in Auckland hospital on a charitable bed and recalled that “it was here that I learned my class early and also my difference”[6] She attended a convent school, where she received prizes for theology. She left formal schooling at the age of eleven.[7] Purdue was married at the age of twenty. There is little public information about her two marriages, although she described both as ‘unhappy marriages’ ending in divorce.[8] Purdue had three children.

At sixteen, she became the secretary of the Young Communist League, sold their books and distributed materials about sex education.[9] Her support for communist ideology eventually gave way to support of Social-Democratic ideas and reforming industrial relations. She joined the Labour Party and, in 1967, was appointed to the Social Welfare office at the Auckland Clerical Workers Union. Confronted with low engagement by female members, Purdue organised social activities such as a luncheon club, self-improvement classes, fashion parades, holiday motels and counselling services to make female members more proactive in the union.[10]

In the late 1960s, Purdue joined the Council for Equal Pay and Opportunity as secretary and was effective in advancing the cause through campaigns.[11] Although the Government Service Equal Pay Act had passed in 1960, women still faced challenges, particularly in the private sector. As one woman, interviewed by Television New Zealand, stated at the time, “I don’t like the idea of equal pay for women. I feel that the male has to have something left, even if it’s just a little bit of extra money in his pay packet every week. I think we are going to rob him of his ego.”[12] Purdue championed the right of women to enter the workforce and that they should have the same pay and opportunities as men. In her own words, she sought to challenge the idea that there were ‘jobs for women and jobs for men.’[13] She hoped to change the attitudes of women about education and work. She wanted women to take the ‘long term view, that you are going to have a long working life, so that they see that as important and do become skilled.’[14] Purdue was influential in the passing of the Equal Pay Act in 1972.

In 1969, she joined the women’s liberation movement at Auckland University and in 1971 assisted with Australian feminist Germaine Greer’s tour of New Zealand.[15] In 1972, Purdue and Sue Kedley formed the National Organisation of Women (NOW), with Purdue the first president of the Auckland Branch.[16] In 1972 and 1973, she led protests against gender segregation in ‘situation vacant’ advertisements and for women to be allowed to work as newsreaders on TV and radio.[17]

However, by the early 1970s, Purdue’s beliefs about abortion conflicted with emerging trends in second-wave feminism.  Despite NOW branches in Wellington and Christchurch being responsive to abortion reform, Purdue’s influence meant that NOW did not have an official policy and she encouraged pro-abortion members of NOW to join other organisations.[18] In 1974, Purdue was replaced as president. Subsequently, the Auckland Branch of NOW supported the free availability of contraception and the right to abortion in line with other branches in the country.  Many members of the Auckland Branch, encouraged by Purdue, resigned in protest.

By this point, Purdue’s increasingly religious and socially conservative views alienated her from most feminist and reform orientated political organisations. She was concerned that the State was becoming increasingly involved in the private affairs of the family. Purdue described abortion as a ‘dividing line’ and believed feminists had lost credibility supporting the sexual revolution of that period.[19] The researcher Robyn Reynolds described Purdue as an ‘anti-feminist’ but noted that if it was not for the abortion issue Purdue would be a staunch feminist supporter.[20]  

 In 1973, Purdue became an active member of the New Zealand branch of Feminists for Life which aligned agitation for women’s employment rights with a Catholic-flavoured overt anti-abortion stance.[21] In reaction to a pro-abortion march advertisement in Auckland University’s student magazine titled ’Ladies, Lose Ten Pounds Excess Flesh,’  Purdue wrote an open letter to the editor, suggesting the title be changed to ‘Fathers And Mothers, Lose By Poisoning, Burning or Dismemberment Your Full Time Daughter or Son.’[22]  

As President of Feminists for Life and Vice President of the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, Purdue attended the first national gathering of the United Women’s Convention in 1973. She was a vocal and combative critic of section 15 of the proposed ‘Working Women’s Charter.’ Section 15 of the charter called for ‘all, financial, social and medical impediments to safe contraction, sterilisation and abortion to be removed as to allow the individual concerned to make their own decisions.’[23] Purdue believed that section 15 should be scrapped. as it was beyond the scope of the charter. [24] Purdue and 25 other anti-abortionists walked out of the convention.[25] Purdue subsequently submitted a ‘Mother’s petition’ and a ‘Concerned Citizen’ petition to Parliament in objection and to show support for ‘life and family.’

In 1974, she was elected to the Auckland Health Board and was the women’s representative for the Labour Party from 1974 to 1978. In 1975, Broadsheet ran an article by Christine Dann, attacking Purdue’s claim that she was a feminist.[26] In the same year, Purdue received an MBE for services to the public and the community.[27] Catholicism was increasingly important to Purdue as were traditional family structures and gender roles.[28] Her concern over the dangers to society by social practices against Christian values such as homosexuality, abortion, pornography and Māori cultural revitalisation shifted to safeguarding and/or protesting activities that would encourage the moral decline of society. She became celibate and advocated for the lifestyle.[29] In 1983, Feminists for Life changed its name to Women for Lifea signal of the organisation’s focus and rejection of then-current feminist and other social libratory perspectives. At odds with the pluralistic and socially liberal direction of the Labour Party, she left the party and became a member of the National Party, even as the National Party introduced anti-union legislation and the Employment Contract Act, which eroded worker rights.

In 1985, as a committee member of the Auckland Health Board at an employment appeal by Rina Rata (Ngatiwai, Ngapuhi) over institutional racism in employment policies, Purdue stated that she was not going to be intimidated by numbers when Rata’s extended whānau attended the proceedings. The proceedings were postponed.[30]  She also criticised Ngahuia te Awekotuku (Te Arawa, Tuhoe), who had once been a pallbearer at the mock funeral procession at Queen Albert Park in 1971 for attempting to align the lesbian rights movement with feminism, stating that she had put the women’s liberation movement back fifty years in doing so.[31] As a Spokesperson for ‘Women of Faith and Family’,  she described the 1990 screening of the choreographer Douglas Wright’s work Gloria on TVNZ as ‘the first step to pornography.’’[32]  

In 1993, she received the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal[33] and after a long period of limited mobility, died at the age of 87, on March the 16th, 2000. While Purdue’s later perspectives may be alienating to modern sensibilities, she remains an important figure in union activism for women’s employment rights.  She is a case study of the challenges faced by women with conservative religious values confronting broad social changes in the 1970s and beyond. 


Tim McVicar
Tim McVicar

Tim McVicar is a Te Tai Tokerau based content writer and researcher who has lived and worked in the Republic of Georgia, Sudan and Palestine. He holds an MA from Victoria University of Wellington and a Master of Teaching and Educational Leadership from the Mind lab…

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:

 ‘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)

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

Reference List:

[1] Purdue, Connie. Oral History Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NOH-AAA-0086 https://soundcloud.com/auckland-libraries/connie-purdue-class-action (retrieved 6 July 2021)

[2] Rowland, Robyn ‘Women Who Do and Women Who Don’t Join the Women’s Movement: Issues for Conflict and Collaboration’ Sex Roles 1986 14 n 6, p 679 -692

[3], Page, Dorothy. ‘Soljak, Miriam Bridelia’, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1998. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4s36/soljak-miriam-bridelia (retrieved 5 July 2021)

[4] Page Dorothy. ‘Soljak, Miriam Bridelia’, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1998. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4s36/soljak-miriam-bridelia (retrieved 5 July 2021)

[5] Purdue, Connie. Oral History Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NOH-AAA-0086 https://soundcloud.com/auckland-libraries/connie-purdue-class-action (retrieved 6 July 2021)

[6] Purdue, Connie. Oral History Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NOH-AAA-0086 https://soundcloud.com/auckland-libraries/connie-purdue-class-action (retrieved 6 July 2021)

[7] Purdue, Connie. Oral History Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NOH-AAA-0086 https://soundcloud.com/auckland-libraries/connie-purdue-class-action (retrieved 6 July 2021)

[8] Purdue, Connie. Oral History Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections NOH-AAA-0086 https://soundcloud.com/auckland-libraries/connie-purdue-class-action (retrieved 6 July 2021)

[9]  Hall, Lesley ‘The Personal is Also Political: The Relationship Between Political Activism and Family Life Among Members of the Communist Party of New Zealand’: Oral History in New Zealand: 17: 1-11

[10] Nolan, Melanie ‘Employment Organisations’ in Anne Else (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 202-203

[11] Nolan, Melanie ‘Employment Organisations’ in Anne Else (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 202-203

[12] TVNZ ‘Connie Purdue talks about the Setting up of NOW.’ NZ History Videos, date unspecified. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMFwZyy6e8o. (retrieved 5 July, 2021)

[13] TVNZ ‘Connie Purdue talks about the Setting up of NOW.’ NZ History Videos, date unspecified. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMFwZyy6e8o. (retrieved 5 July, 2021)

[14] TVNZ ‘Connie Purdue talks about the Setting up of NOW.’ NZ History Videos, date unspecified. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMFwZyy6e8o. (retrieved 5 July, 2021)

[15] ‘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)

[16] ‘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)

[17] ‘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), (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 4-Nov-2020 (retrieved 5 July 2021)

[18] Dalziel, Raewyn ‘National Organisation for Women 1972’, in Anne Else (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

[19] Rowland, Robyn ‘Women Who Do and Women Who Don’t Join the Women’s Movement: Issues for Conflict and Collaboration’ Sex Roles 1986 14 n 6, p 679 – 692

[20] Rowland, Robyn ‘Women Who Do and Women Who Don’t Join the Women’s Movement: Issues for Conflict and Collaboration’ Sex Roles 1986 14 n 6, p 679 -692

[21] New Zealand Herald. Kiwis who left their mark on the Nation 29/12/2000. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/kiwis-who-left-their-mark-on-the-nation/5JTFQ2JDEQ5G2LKE4ZB6MUJAGE/ (retrieved, 5 July 2021)

[22]  ‘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)

[23] Welsh, Robyn, ‘Working Women’s Charter’ in Macdonald, Charlotte (ed.) The Vote, the Pill and the Demon Drink: A History of Feminist Writing in New Zealand, 1869–1993, Briget Williams Books, 1993 Wellington p 211-212

[24]  Welsh, Robyn, ‘Working Women’s Charter’ in Macdonald, Charlotte (ed.) The Vote, the Pill and the Demon Drink: A History of Feminist Writing in New Zealand, 1869–1993, Briget Williams Books,1993  Wellington  p 211-212

[25] ‘Sue Kedgley’ New Zealand History  https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/sue-kedgley Ministry for Culture and Heritage, updated 5 Mar 2019 (retrieved 6 July, 2021)

[26] Dann, Christine. ‘Connie Purdue – Self Styled FeministBroadsheet, Auckland, Dec 1975; n 35:p 1

[27] “No. 46595”. The London Gazette (3rd supplement). 14 June 1975. p. 7407.

[28] ‘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)’

[29] Rowland, Robyn ‘Women Who Do and Women Who Don’t Join the Women’s Movement: Issues for Conflict and Collaboration’ Sex Roles 1986 14 n 6, p 679 -692

[30] Rata, Rina, ‘Hospital Board’  Broadsheet, Auckland Oct 1985; n 133: p 19

[31] Webb-Liddall, Alice ‘Five wāhine Māori protestors (who other Māori thought were a pain in the ass)’ The Spinoff. Aug 2019‘https://thespinoff.co.nz/atea/02-08-2019/five-wahine-maori-protestors-who-other-maori-thought-were-a-pain-in-the-ass/ (retried 5 July 2021)

[32] Purdue, Connie quoted at https://www.nzonscreen.com/title/gloria-1990/quotes NZ On Screen (retrieved 5 July 2021)

[33] “The New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal 1993 – register of recipients”. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 26 July 2018 (retrieved 5 July 2021).

Image Bibliography

Photo Source:  ‘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)

Published: August 6th, 2021

Last modified: January 5th, 2022

Cite as: Tim McVicar, Connie Purdue – Activist and “Anti-Feminist”, Womens History of New Zealand, Last modified January 2022, https://womenshistorynz.com/connie-purdue/

Categories
Lisa Cooke

Consciousness Raising

Consciousness Raising: Safe Spaces or Backseat Feminism? How the 60’s brought forth a mass of groups that gave women safe spaces to share, discuss ideas, and express themselves.

Consciousness-raising refers to groups of people who met up during the Women’s Liberation Movement in the late 1960s. These support groups allowed women to discuss personal experiences and feelings in a safe environment with other women, which over time would develop their understanding of feelings of unhappiness being linked to their oppression. These groups allowed feelings and thoughts to be shared that were considered private or taboo too, such as sex and abortion.[1] It allowed women, who perhaps were overwhelmed with what it meant to be female, to meet like-minded people and build resilience together.

These gatherings, which could be informal meetings and open discussions, shared responsibility among its members to create an environment where all experiences were equal. It meant that everyone got to speak and share their thoughts, rather than run the risk of only having confident individuals run the floor. This was purposely in contrast to the strict hierarchies and rule following of the government, which was seen as masculine.[2] In general, consciousness-raising groups were one of many women’s liberation groups fighting for equality for women. Communities would also create their own consciousness-raising groups as it allowed gay communities and non-white communities to meet and challenge their realities with their peers. For lesbian groups, it helped establish friendly social networks and allowed people to challenge gender roles and ‘come out’ to others in a safe environment. However, some lesbians did not want to be involved in formal groups as if seen, they risked verbal and physical abuse from the public. Newspapers even refused to advertise lesbian groups or events until the late 1970s.[3]

For Maori women, groups were formed to challenge politics and encourage health and culture, such as The Māori Women’s Welfare League (MWWL).[4] Another example was Te Hui Wahine which allowed Maori women to discuss equal rights and the need to stop selling land as a reaction to the restrictive European laws. [5] On the other hand, for some Maori women consciousness-raising and liberation groups, in general, were more of a ‘white middle-class movement’ that was a diversion for bigger challenges Maori people had – such as the judicial system, education and land rights.[6]

Across the world, consciousness-raising groups were attacked for focusing on personal issues rather than wider social problems. Among some black women activists, they criticised some of the consciousness-raising groups of focusing too heavily on love and sex – becoming a ‘white woman’s self-indulgence’.[7] Some liberation groups also called women in consciousness-raising groups ‘living room feminists’ and argued their tactics wouldn’t help bring change. Consciousness-raising was one of many forms of liberation groups that fought for equality. In particular, these groups allowed people to challenge the status quo and develop an awareness of identity in a safe environment – where many women may have felt like they had a voice for the first time.


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.  – Lisa

Published: August 6th, 2021

Last Modified: November 10th, 2021

Cite as: Lisa Cooke, “Consciousness Raising”, Womens History of New Zealand, Last modified November 2021, https://womenshistorynz.com/conciousness-rasing/

Categories
Izzy France

Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde, distinguished politician, social campaigner, business advisor, and activist. The woman who introduced the Homosexual Law Reform Bill to Parliament

Fran Wilde, born in Wellington in 1948, is a distinguished politician, social campaigner, business advisor, and activist. Wilde spent her early life in Wellington, attending Victoria University and Polytechnic and becoming a journalist before an intense passion for social issues in New Zealand in the 1970s propelled her into the political realm.[1]

Wilde was elected to Parliament as the MP for Wellington Central in 1981, entering Parliament alongside other leading women including Helen Clark and Ruth Richardson. She served as Parliamentary whip in the fourth Labour government between 1984 and 1987 and served as Minister of Tourism and Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control during Geoffrey Palmer’s prime minister-ship from 1989-1990. During her time in Parliament, Wilde advocated strongly for recognition of rape with marriage, a strongly feminist driven reform, nuclear free NZ, and adoption reform.[2]

Wilde (left) during her term as Wellington’s mayor. Source: National Library. https://natlib.govt.nz/records/22892824

Wilde is best known for her landmark achievement in introducing and heralding the Homosexual Law Reform Bill through Parliament between 1985 and 1986, which legalized consensual sex for homosexuals over the age of 16 in New Zealand. Wilde stated that she viewed it as a significant gap in New Zealand’s human rights laws, a long standing problem from Victorian colonial era laws concerning sex.

Considering the work needed to pass the bill, Wilde noted that “I don’t think we realized how big the reaction would be, we knew there would be a negative reaction, but I don’t think anyone realized how massive, and nasty, and vindictive it would be, it was truly ugly.”[3] Wilde battled with a team of Labour MPs to get the bill over the line in an 18 month campaign which saw many of New Zealand’s social conservatives mobilize and attack the gay community in virulently homophobic attacks, and with low levels of public and parliamentary support, the bill faced a narrow chance of passage from the outset.[4]

Alongside Trevor Mallard, who worked to help secure the votes and keep a running tally of the MPs who had pledged to vote for the law, and others such as Helen Clark and Michael Cullen, the bill successfully proceeded through its second reading and committee stages before passing after a third reading with 49 votes for and 44 against on 9 July 1986.[5] Wilde noted in 2016 that if 3 people had changed their minds, the bill would not have succeeded.[6]

Wilde with Governor General Patsy Reddy in 2017. Source: Office of the Governor General. https://gg.govt.nz/images/honourabledame-fran-wilde-wellingtondnzm-services-state-and-community

Though Wilde is perhaps best known for her shepherding the HLRB, her career in politics has spanned far beyond her parliamentary service between 1981 and 1992. In 1992, Wilde resigned from Parliament so that she could run for mayor of Wellington, an election she won with 32.91% of the vote to become Wellington’s first female mayor.[7]

During her single term as Wellington’s Mayor between 1992 and 1995, Wilde oversaw the construction of the city-to-sea bridge, the adoption of the current city slogan “absolutely positively Wellington” and helped carry through the plans for the construction of Westpac stadium. At the completion of her mayoral term Wilde decided to step away from politics, citing a need for more personal time, but would later serve on the Wellington regional council from 2004-2016, marking a uniquely lengthy career in local politics for someone who had previously been an MP.[8]

Throughout her career in politics, Wilde has been at the forefront of a number of social changes, advocating firmly for social justice issues at all levels of government. Her work on the Homosexual Law Reform Bill continues to benefit New Zealanders, and as she noted “Had the Christian fundamentalist lobby been successful they would have just moved in a big wave across a whole lot of other issues as well and that would have set New Zealand society back hugely.”[9]

Outside of politics, Wilde has served on numerous business, public, and corporate boards, including Housing New Zealand, Kiwi Can Do, a service that helps to get unemployed New Zealanders into skilled work, and the board of Te Papa, the national museum.[10] As recognition of her long service to the New Zealand public in a range of capacities, Wilde was made a Dame of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to the State and the community.[11] Wilde is still active in a number of roles in governance and community work and was honored for her efforts in passing the Homosexual Law Reform Bill at a panel with Trevor Mallard, the only current MP involved in the passage of the bill in 1986.


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:

Bibliography:

Image Bibliography:
  1. Marilyn Waring: A woman’s view of parliament from 1975 to 1984 | Stuff.co.nz. Fran Wilde seen with Marilyn Waring https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/112579830/marilyn-waring-a-womans-view-of-parliament-from-1975-to-1984
  2. Mayor of Wellington, Fran Wilde, with… | Items | National Library of New Zealand | National Library of New Zealand (natlib.govt.nz) https://natlib.govt.nz/records/22892824
  3. Wilde with Governor General Patsy Reddy in 2017. Source: Office of the Governor General. The HonourableDame Fran Wilde, of Wellington,DNZM, for services to the State and the community | The Governor-General of New Zealand (gg.govt.nz) https://gg.govt.nz/images/honourabledame-fran-wilde-wellingtondnzm-services-state-and-community

Published: August 6th, 2021

Last modified: November 6th, 2021

Cite as: Liam Perkins, “Fran Wilde”, Womens History of New Zealand, Last modified November 2021, https://atomic-temporary-193744190.wpcomstaging.com/fran-wilde-new-zealand-campaigner/