By Nik Bullard, Social History Curator
2018 marks the 125th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in New Zealand. In 1893 New Zealand was the first country in the world to enfranchise women (give them the vote). Although this was a major achievement for women, and from this stage on women in New Zealand started having greater control over their lives and more influence in the political sphere, today women still have a way to go to achieve equality with men.
As part of this national event Wellington Museum has commissioned a contemporary artwork to be installed in the former Wellington Harbour Board’s von Kohorn boardroom. As this room is heavily dominated by male portraits of previous Harbour Board members, it is the perfect location to generate a Suffrage response.
This was our brief:
‘Wellington Museum plans to acknowledge the 125th anniversary of Suffrage in a contemporary, thought provoking, awareness raising and creative fashion. As such, we are commissioning an artwork to hang in the historic Board Room; a strong statement and juxtaposition to what is currently a very male dominated space. Although we are open to medium, textile works will be strong contenders given the historic banners women have created together to promote their causes (think Suffrage or 1913 Waterfront Dispute). As we have been considering the project our thinking has been along the lines of—125 years of Suffrage—So what? Are women in Aotearoa New Zealand equal today?’
We received a number of excellent proposals. A big thank you to everyone who submitted one – we really appreciated it and it was exciting reading them all!
So, after much thought and deliberation we are very pleased and proud to announce the winner:
Genevieve Packer – who will develop a contemporary textile artwork that will cover the map of Wellington in the boardroom.
To quote from her proposal:
“It speaks to the often overwhelming historical anonymity of the role of women, across all fields.”
“In the words of numerous placards in recent women’s marches: ‘I can’t believe we’re still protesting this shit!’ ”
See Genevieve’s website for more about her – http://www.genevievepacker.com/
This artwork will be launched around Suffrage day (September 19).
International Women’s Day 2018
Genevieve’s Suffrage 125 artwork and women’s rights theme have a direct relationship to International Women’s Day on 8 March.
#PressforProgress is this year’s campaign. https://www.internationalwomensday.com/PressforProgress
With the ‘World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report’ findings telling us that gender parity is a LONG way away, now is the time to get motivated and #PressforProgress. With global activism for women’s equality fuelled by movements like #MeToo, #TimesUp and more, there is a strong global momentum striving for gender parity.
In New Zealand, there are a number of issues facing women that need to be addressed. Take pay parity for example.
The cold hard facts:
- New Zealand women, on average, are paid an average of 13% less than man.
- Māori women earn 13% less than Pākehā women, and 23% less than a man of any ethnicity.
- Asian women get paid 10% less than Pākehā women, and 20% less than men of any ethnicity.
- Pasifika women are the worst off, earning 20% less than Pākehā women, and 28% less than a man of any ethnicity.
In 2016 women’s average weekly earnings were 61.1% of men’s. In dollar terms, that means women are earning an average of $432 a week compared to men earning and average of $707: a difference of $275 per week and $14,300 per year. (Source: Naiomi Murgatroyd, Tusk 01/05/17)
And then there’s the issue of domestic violence. Recently Women’s Refuge conducted an online survey about links between suicide or self-harm and domestic violence. While the survey was self-selecting and non-scientific, chief executive Ang Jury said the number of responses had both surprised and scared her.
Of those who responded most were aged between 26 and 45, three quarters had children. Almost all respondents reported suffering psychological abuse – 80 percent had experienced physical violence in their relationship and 70 percent had suffered economic abuse. https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/351329/women-s-refuge-shocked-by-response-to-survey
‘It’s not OK’ is a national anti-violence campaign running in New Zealand. See their website for national statistics on domestic violence and where to go for help and advice. http://areyouok.org.nz/family-violence/statistics/
It’s important to fight injustice and inequality at every turn. And rights for women are not just a women’s struggle – the lack of gender equality affects us all.
Museums Wellington is acknowledging Suffrage 125 in various other ways across our sites. Keep an eye on Museums Wellington’s social media, website and newsletters for other exciting events.