Happy Suffrage Day New Zealand – 19th September

web KATE detailHappy anniversary to New Zealand – and tomorrow morning (19th Sept) I’m attending a breakfast at Te Papa  (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) to celebrate, and commemorate the women who fought for the right to vote – and look to the future too no doubt.

It’s 123 years since the woman of New Zealand, our wonderful suffragists, our early feminists, won us the ability to vote in our general Parliamentary elections. Some, but certainly not all, women had been able to vote in various non-Parliamentary elections.

Female ratepayers, that is landowners, had been voting in local body elections from 1875; two years later they could stand for school committees, then in 1893, after years of campaigning, New Zealand women, whether landowners or not, became able to vote in the national Parliamentary elections.

Annual celebrations in Christchurch 19th Sept
Annual celebrations in Christchurch 19th Sept

Our suffragists certainly led the way, with the USA, in the face of most states allowing it, granted the same right to their women in 1920 (19th amendment) then, in 1928 all women in Britain were able to vote: before that, from 1918 only female property owners over 30-yrs had been able to vote.

Given our history I get upset at the lack of knowledge by a wide swathe of New Zealand, including the media, using the term suffragette to refer to our suffragists.

That term was coined about 15 years after New Zealand women were voting therefore New Zealand women were not suffragettes. First used in a newspaper it was a derogatory term but eventually was captured by the women of the USA and UK but was and never should be used in relationship to Kate Shepherd and our women ancestors, including my maternal great-grandmother, Elizabeth Rowe: my grandmother, Mabel was born in 1893 so it has always been easy to remember both dates!

One of the great things about the 1893 Electoral Bill was that while Māori women were given the vote too not ‘just’ women with land, unfortunately,  Chinese women, in fact all Chinese, did not get the vote until the early 1950s.

Suffrage day (19th November) is often also called White Camellia day, as women who supported enfranchisement wore a white camellia.

The Christchurch memorial was unveiled at the 100-year anniversary and a new camellia variety was created and named ‘Kate Sheppard’.

Don’t waste the courage and strength of our brave 19th century women by honouring them and making sure you always vote – it was a hard won battle, albeit very different to those in the UK in particular. 

 

Happy Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year: travelling in Penang, Malaysia, (a couple of years ago)  temporary stages were all around the city during the days leading to the Chinese New Year. Large semi-solid structures are at temples or outside affluent establishments or homes where people have financially supported the theatre or opera that is about to be staged.

Happy Thai new year
Happy Thai new year


For a few days before New Year opera plays nightly. Outside a supermarket two colourful dragons cavort, their fluttering eyelashes making the dance look flirtatious. As in many warm climates, evenings are when places come alive in a different way to the daytime busy-ness. Locals wander the streets talking to neighbours, eating meals in noisy gaggles and now in the Chinese New Year, watch local theatre.


As with all travellers, I too watch the theatre of life that unfolds itself daily, hourly, minute by minute and as part of that kaleidoscope, watch the shows. To a Western ear the sounds are often discordant, loud, and too highly pitched.  Each evening I wander the streets of Georgetown, watch the opera and gradually my ears become accustomed to the tone.

Men, often dressed as women, are in colourful clothes and the story usually seems to be about long-lost loves or love betrayed;  well that’s how I, with no knowledge of any Chinese language, interpret them.

Four or five men, sitting behind screens, make up the orchestra, and during long speeches or songs from the stage, I could hear their conversations and watch as huge plumes of cigarette smoke drift from around the screens and out to the audience.

The audience emerges from the shadows of alleyways, shops and homes as the band tune their instruments. I am given a sheet of newspaper to sit on, others sat on their rickshaw, bike, or chair carried from home, while yet others sat on newspaper too. Most smoke. Adding to the pall of smoke is the token money burnt in temple grounds as people make offerings to their ancestors.


If you can, spend  some time on the road early in the western-calendar year. Leave New Zealand  ( or whatever country you live in) after your New Years eve party and picnic the next day, then start counting. Counting the celebrations you can indulge in. Chinese New Year is usually first, both it and Islam’s end of Ramadan, the next new year, aren’t fixed dates but are lunar events so check for the dates. Then finally, in mid April – the Buddhist New Year.


Four fabulous New Years in a short space of time, all celebrated in very different ways and all wonderful times to be travelling and learning more about how other cultures enjoy the change of year.

To the Chinese community – Have a happy New Year!

NOTE: See photos of the Chinese New Zealand in Christchurch elsewhere on this site

 

%d bloggers like this: