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 70s 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.

Sheilas: 28 Years On

Film, 2004 (Full Length)

Twenty eight years after featuring in landmark feminist documentary series Women, five interviewees reveal how their lives have changed. Donna Awatere Huata, Miriam Cameron, Sandi Hall, Aloma Parker and Marcia Russell candidly discuss work, sex, the media and Māori in this 70 minute documentary. Artist Cameron recalls how feminists were seen in the 1970s: "she was a braless, hairy, fat hag". Journalist Russell remembers not being allowed to work past 11pm because she was a woman, while psychologist Parker felt liberated by feminist Germaine Greer's refusal to wear a bra.

Series

Buck House

Television, 1974–1975

Famous as New Zealand television's first ever sitcom, Buck House was a rollicking and relatively risqué series that centred on the comings and goings of university students in a dilapidated Wellington flat — the eponymous 'Buck House'. Stars of the show included John Clarke, Paul Holmes, and Tony Barry (Goodbye Pork Pie). Despite (or more likely because of) its bawdy humour, occasional coarse language and alcohol abuse, the pioneering comedy sated the needs of many Kiwi viewers desperate for TV with identifiable local content and flavour.

What Really Happened - Votes for Women

Television, 2012 (Full Length)

In September 1893 New Zealand became the first country to grant all women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. This fly on the wall docudrama reimagines this major achievement, following Kate Sheppard (played by Sara Wiseman) throughout the final push of her campaign. The 70-minute TV movie follows the template set by director Peter Burger and writer Gavin Strawhan in their 2011 docudrama on the Treaty of Waitangi, with key characters directly addressing their 21st century audience. At the 2012 NZ TV awards, Wiseman won for Best Performance by an Actress.

Bread & Roses

Film, 1993 (Excerpts)

Made to mark 100 years of women's suffrage in New Zealand, Bread & Roses tells the story of pioneering trade unionist, politician and feminist Sonja Davies (1923 - 2005), who rose to prominence in the 1940s and 50s. Directed by Gaylene Preston and co-written by Graeme Tetley, the acclaimed three-hour production played on television screens, and also got a limited cinema release. Australian actor Geneviève Picot (as Sonja Davies) and Mick Rose (as her husband) won gongs for their roles at the 1994 NZ Film and TV Awards. Bianca Zander writes about Bread & Roses here.

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 …" 

Sunday - Media Women

Television, 1986 (Full Length Episode)

Lindsay Perigo and TV producer Allison Webber have a heated discussion about the portrayal of women in the media in this 1986 current affairs show. Webber says females are sick of being portrayed as sex symbols or tidiness-obsessed housewives. Webber was representing Media Women; the organisation was campaigning for better media coverage, and running its first NZ conference. Also interviewed are Dominion journalist Judy Pehrson, advertising guru Terry Christie, and Mr Wrong director Gaylene Preston (who talks about double standards in casting movie roles).