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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.

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Allie Eagle and Me

Film, 2004 (Trailer)

In the 1970s, New Zealand artist Allie Eagle identified herself as a lesbian separatist and radical feminist. Her often uncompromising work included pro-abortion painting This Woman Died I Care, which was inspired by a photograph of a woman who died from an illegal abortion. In the 1980s, Eagle became a christian. Made in 2004, Briar March's first, feature-length documentary sees Eagle reflecting on her past with a more moderate outlook — she now has mixed feelings about her earlier stance on abortion.

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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.

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Weekend - Cath Tizard, Mayor of Auckland

Television, 1984 (Excerpts)

At the time of this 1984 interview with Catherine Tizard, Auckland had just been announced as host for the 1990 Commonwealth Games. Weekend's Terry Carter interviews the city’s mayor on her preparation plans: covering commercialism, chauvinism, Treaty of Waitangi, tourism, and a proposed All Blacks tour to South Africa (“it won’t help”). Tizard defends the controversial Aotea Centre and talks about family sacrifices she's made for the mayoral job. ‘Dame Cath’ was the first female Mayor of Auckland, and went on to be New Zealand’s first female Governor-General.

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The Marching Girls - Mahara's Story

Television, 1987 (Full Length Episode)

Created by Fiona Samuel, The Marching Girls follows a Taita social marching team who decide to have a crack at the North Island champs. In the first episode of this feminist-Flashdance-in-formation 80s classic, young whippersnapper Leonie tries to modernise the girls' routine by getting them to march to the heavy metal tunes of Ironlung ("they're really big in Australia!"). This proves too much for Mahara (Patupatu Ripley), who's got enough on her plate with her new role as hesitant union spokesperson for her fellow workers down at the factory.

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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.

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A Class Act, Mervyn Thompson, His Life & Work

Television, 1997 (Full Length)

In the theatre world of the 70s and 80s, playwright Mervyn Thompson was an outspoken figure. He wrote, directed, and acted in theatre that presented New Zealand working class history and experience. This doco features a rare interview with Thompson before he died in 1992, as well as footage from his last work Passing Through (1991). Thompson discusses his upbringing on the West Coast of the South Island, his approach to theatre, and alludes to some of the controversies that beset his career.

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Lyn of Tawa - In Search of the Great New Zealand Male

Television, 1994 (Full Length)

Kiwi icon Lyn of Tawa (Ginette McDonald) — she of mangled vowel fame — goes on the prowl in search of the ultimate Kiwi bloke. The girl-from-the-suburb's mission takes in the gamut of masculine mythology, from Man Alone to mateship, as Lyn provides manthropological reflections ("can a woman ever be a mate?"). Made when the good keen man was facing up to the challenge from SNAGs, the documentary travels from the West Coast (for sex education) to a men's club, from rugby scrums to rabbit culls, and meets hunters, lawyers, students and gay ten-pin bowlers.

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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 …" 

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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.