Collection

Pioneering Women

Curated by NZ On Screen team

This collection celebrates women and feminism in New Zealand — the first country in the world to give all women the vote. We shine the light on a line of female achievers: suffrage pioneers, educators, unionists, politicians, writers, musicians, mothers and feminist warriors — from Kate Sheppard to Sonja Davies to Shona Laing. In her backgrounder, TV veteran and journalism tutor Allison Webber writes how the collection helps us understand and honour our past, asks why feminism gets a bad rap, and considers the challenges faced by feminism in connecting past and present.

Votes for the Girls

Television, 1994 (Full Length)

This documentary was made to mark the centenary of New Zealand women winning the right to vote, on 19 September 1893. It traces the history of Aotearoa’s world-leading suffrage movement, and interviews contemporary women in politics. They chart how far things have come, and reflect on the enduring double standards that women still face. Interviewees include Helen Clark (then leader of the Labour Party), Jenny Shipley, Dame Cath Tizard, Wellington Mayor Fran Wilde and visiting President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, plus mothers and high school students. 

Inquiry - Nothing Venture, Nothing Gain

Television, 1974 (Full Length Episode)

This edition of the 1970s current affairs show sees reporter Joe Coté investigating women in politics. A potted history of the trailblazers — from suffragist Kate Sheppard to Māori MP Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan (first to have a baby while in office) — leads to wide-ranging conversations with contemporary women in politics. Future Christchurch mayor Vicki Buck (here a 19-year-old council candidate) and others from across the spectrum, talk about ongoing struggles for equality: education, empowerment, abortion, childcare support, and the ‘old boys’ network.

Pacific Viewpoint - Paddy Walker interview

Television, 1979 (Excerpts)

In this episode of Pacific Viewpoint, Pacific women's advocate Eleitino 'Paddy' Walker is interviewed about the success of P.A.C.I.F.I.C.A, an organisation she helped set up in 1976. While at the fourth Pacific Allied (Womens) Council Inspires Faith in Ideals Concerning All conference, she talks about giving members a "sense of belonging" and fulfilling the group's goal to unite Pasifika womenThe Samoan-Kiwi was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 as part of the 1000 women project, and became the first Auckland City councillor of Pacific descent. Walker died in 2015 at age 98.

All Things Being Equal - 22 September 1978 Episode

Television, 1978 (Full Length Episode)

Written by future Gloss creator Rosemary McLeod, this Television One sitcom satirised late 70s gender politics. It was filmed before a studio audience at Avalon Studios. In this episode, Ginette McDonald’s lippy feminist withholds the joy of sex from her hippy hubbie, and Bruno Lawrence (sporting a magnificent anti-comb over) is the unreformed motorhead neighbour whose hangover cure is beer and cornflakes. Lawrence’s larrikin performance in the show was spotted by director Roger Donaldson, who cast Bruno in his breakout lead role in a movie: Al Shaw in Smash Palace

Dislawderly - Series Two

Web, 2018 (Full Length Episodes)

The second season of web series Dislawderly sees outspoken law student Audrey facing love and student elections, and preparing for a moot (a mock trial). Series creator and real life law student Georgia Rippin (who also stars) used responses from the law school’s 2016 gender survey to frame her storylines — like female students being chided for speaking in a high pitch in the courtroom. Dislawderly's mockery of sexism proved timely. The second season dropped two months after a scandal over how female student clerks had been treated at a major New Zealand law firm. 

The Edge - Jane Campion interview

Television, 1993 (Excerpts)

This 1993 interview from the first series of arts show The Edge screened while The Piano was in Kiwi cinemas. Earlier that year Jane Campion had become the first (and only) female director to share the top award at the Cannes Film Festival. Here, she discusses the antipodean character of her next project ( The Portrait of a Lady) and the satisfaction of offering Nicole Kidman a role that isn’t “like a handbag to one of the male stars”. She also muses on working in Hollywood versus her hometown Sydney, and the influence of a New Zealand upbringing on forming her imagination.

Buck House - Escorts Unlimited Ltd

Television, 1974 (Full Length)

New Zealand television's first sitcom, Buck House centred on the antics of a group of university students sharing a flat in Wellington. In this sixth episode of the first series, Reg — played by a fast-talking, afro-headed Paul Holmes — gets embroiled in his flatmate Joe's latest illicit moneymaking scheme. 'Escorts Unlimited Ltd', as Joe (Tony Barry) tries to explain, is a surefire winner. That is, until Buck House's other flattie, the left-leaning Jo (Jacqui Dunn) invites a member of the local constabulary home for a cup of tea. The late night comedy was considered edgy when it debuted in 1974.

The Write Stuff - Sonja Davies

Television, 1997 (Excerpts)

This excerpt from the 22nd episode of Kiwi literature series The Write Stuff features unionist and peace campaigner Sonja Davies (1923 - 2005). Davies had just released Marching On, the follow-up to her acclaimed 1984 autobiography Bread & Roses. Presenter Alison Parr asks Davies about her experience in Parliament, as well as personal tragedy and gardening. Davies reflects on achieving change, her dislike for the aggression of the debating chamber, and the values her grandparents taught her: "compassion and responsibility, caring for others more than you care for yourself …" 

About Face - Return Journey

Television, 1985 (Full Length)

Alison (Mary Regan from Heart of the Stag) sets out from Auckland to visit her mother (Elizabeth McRae), who lives alone in the family house. The upcoming reunion triggers strong memories for mother and daughter alike. As an 18-year-old, Alison was angry when her mother felt obliged to support her father's wish that Alison not bother going to university. For creator Shereen Maloney, the film touches on the tensions arising when succeeding generations have differing choices available to them. An experimental short from the anthology series About Face.