Women’s suffrage

Lianne Dalziel addresses the crowd. Facing her is Helen Brown, who also spoke. She is one of the authors of the recently published second volume of Tāngata Ngai Tāhu which features many women, a number of whom signed the petition.

It was good to meet with friends at the Kate Sheppard National Memorial on Monday 19th to celebrate 129 years of women’s suffrage in Aotearoa New Zealand. I was interested to hear our mayor, Lianne Dalziel, speak before her term in office ends. In the photo she is wearing a camellia brooch given to women members of parliament on Women’s Suffrage Day several years ago while she was an MP. Several other women spoke. We heard about the effort the suffrage movement took and about the women organisers (and some of the women who signed the petition), that the Electoral Act was passed by only two votes, that it was long afterwards before other reforms and inclusive political representation occurred, and that hard work is still required to maintain what has been gained.

On Wednesday, I was pleased to see Kate Sheppard featured in our notes for the class at the WEA on Women in Philosophy. We learned about women suffragists and activists, thinkers and writers from other countries too. It’s worth noting that the term ‘suffragette’ was applied mainly to women suffragists in the UK. To me, it has disparaging overtones, belittling the cause and belittling the women. No wonder that – out of sheer frustration at the lack of progress – they resorted to violent means. A friend and I discussed this today and thought sympathetically, and with concern, of the women currently protesting in Iran.

This afternoon we visited Kate Sheppard House where a volunteer gave a detailed talk about some of the clothing and items belonging to Kate Sheppard and what they tell us about her and the time in which she lived. She began by considering how Kate Sheppard, with the symbolic white camellia, is represented on the $10 note. Afterwards, we were able to explore the beautifully presented house and garden and were hugely impressed.

The Women’s Suffrage movement included at least one Māori woman activist who played a significant role. She is the first of the standing women in the memorial statue in the top photo.

We saw where Kate Sheppard and several other suffragists assembled the petition which was sent in sections from all around the country and pasted together ready to present to parliament. It was the third petition they had presented.

I hardly need to point out how hard it must have been then, with difficult access, to collect signatures for three petitions.

One of the rooms features many women who have achieved high office in Aotearoa New Zealand since the vote was granted. I know they have all had a difficult time being in the public eye and that the downsides of social media make it even more difficult today. I am pleased the government bought this house as a national memorial and education centre to be administered by Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga. It is important.

Art effect

Going to the Art Gallery Te Puna o Whaiwetū is like taking a sideways step out of your life and into contemplation of the creative mind. It can ‘leaven the lump’ – a term I encountered recently in a Scottish novel. At least, it can distract the mind for a while.

This is some of the ceramic art of Cheryl Lucas in an exhibition called Shaped by Schist and Scoria. I puzzled over the work and marvelled at it simultaneously while considering the creative impulses of the woman who had made it. There were pale ceramic shapes draped over wires in another room. Why? I asked myself, (and where would it go when it’s not being exhibited?) while also admiring the shapes and angles and the unexpected use of ceramics – like socks on a washing line.

Another area featured work from the gallery collection curated to show the artists’ use of light. I entertained myself by trying to identify the artists before reading the plaques. This one I didn’t pick as a Rita Angus, but I enjoyed the subject: an aquilegia. Rita Angus’s Goddess of Mercy is a favourite which was also in the exhibition. It is full of light and colour, so this muted watercolour was a surprise and my appreciation of it was heightened by my own enjoyment – and irritation, sometimes – with aquilegias in my garden.

Also known as columbine and granny’s bonnet, once you’ve got them in your garden they appear everywhere, muscling their way into pots and between paving stones and putting down strong, deep roots. Their most delightful features are the unusual spurred shapes and varied colours of the flowers, but also the pale green leaves with their rounded, frilled edges. So it was unusual to see this concentration on just the form of the flower and with only a hint of colour in the leaves. Art helps you see something in a new way. Here it is the form of the plant which is emphasised – against a muddy background (made muddier in this photo by my reflection in the glass).

Over the next few days, the images and the calm of the gallery remain in an illuminated corner of my mind.


Mabel was in the nesting box for quite a while this morning, while Popcorn shouted encouragement from outside – but this was the result.

Poor Mabel. She’s doing her best, but I think her egg-laying days are over. A friend suggested the chooks are now in ‘henopause’.

To encourage laying, sometimes a china egg is placed in the nesting box. I have an egg-shaped stone from Riverton beach which might do instead, just in case Mabel simply needs some inspiration. Here it is next to today’s little egg.

For further comparison, here is today’s egg next to Mabel’s Friday effort which I’ve dubbed ‘the egg man’.

Strangest egg yet

Perhaps one of the chooks decided to make an effort after hearing me say yesterday that I would stop feeding them dog roll since they’re not laying (the dog roll is to ensure they get the minerals they need for egg production). They love their dog roll. (I choose one which has no chicken in it.)

Perhaps their only ‘value’ is the chicken poo they produce which goes into the compost bins. However, we find great value in their company and the entertainment they provide. We call it ‘chicken tv’. This little egg has certainly lifted our sad mood today when the radio speaks only of the Queen’s death.

The tiny double egg was in the henhouse this morning – the one they haven’t been using all winter. Instead, they huddle together on barley straw in the cosier space of the smaller house – more like a nesting box than a henhouse with perches.

Now that it’s spring, the chooks are more active about the garden, digging and exploring. In the last day or two I’ve noticed them going, briefly, into the larger henhouse. Perhaps it’s time to refresh the wood shavings in there and make the nesting box part of it more welcoming, but I fear they are getting too old to lay eggs. In a commercial enterprise they would have been culled long ago. Here, they can live out their days.

Speckled texture – and a little bow on its head

What to do with it?

Spring Snow

It was a novelty to wake up to a light coating of snow this morning. Mabel was not keen to put her feet in the snow on the deck. I carried her across to join the others for breakfast on the lawn before she missed out. Chickens feet are warm, in case you’ve wondered – or never thought about it. Mabel (second from the left) was warm and her feathers soft and silky.

The snow will be gone soon. I took some photos to capture the surprise of it.

I was relieved to see the lemon tree I planted in the weekend snuggled safely beside the house, the snow barely reaching it.

Dwarf Meyer lemon tree planted in case the old tree doesn’t recover (see previous post).

It’s 1.6 degrees celsius right now. The chooks have retreated to the garage for their hot mash. The sun is making an occasional half-hearted appearance, and the forecast is for a high of only 10 degrees. A day to pull the chairs up to the fire.