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.

Topless Women Talk about Their Lives - Episode Two

Television, 1995 (Full Length Episode)

In the second episode of Harry Sinclair’s late night TV3 micro-series, Liz (Danielle Cormack) and Neil (Joel Tobeck) watch the sun rise from a Karangahape road carpark; but, romantic as this could be, it seems Neil has no more chance of keeping up with Liz than her less than inspiring boyfriend Ant (Ian Hughes). Meanwhile, back at home, Ant is making scones and entertaining some random visitors — larger than life drag queens (and K Road identities) Buckwheat and Bertha. But baking is a step too far for a hungover Liz ... and her mother is on the phone.

Topless Women Talk about Their Lives - First Episode

Television, 1995 (Full Length)

This is the first four minute episode of the late-night TV3 micro-series, written and directed by Harry Sinclair. As wannabe air hostess Liz (Danielle Cormack) and her aspiring scriptwriter boyfriend Ant (Ian Hughes) are getting ready for a night-out, the hapless Ant seems oblivious to the fact that he’s wearing out his welcome — and the hairbrush remedy for his 'itchy mouth' does little to heighten his allure. Meanwhile, Neil (Joel Tobeck) ponders one of the great male mysteries. The soundtrack is 'Into You', courtesy of Flying Nun act The JPS Experience.

Pioneer Women - Ettie Rout

Television, 1983 (Full Length Episode)

The Feltex-winning series Pioneer Women dramatised the lives of groundbreaking New Zealand women. This episode looks at the story of controversial safe-sex campaigner Ettie Rout. In World War I she travelled to Egypt to care for Kiwi soldiers; there she found venereal disease was rife, and recommended that prophylactic kits be issued and that brothels be inspected for hygiene. To the establishment her pioneering ideas on health, sex and gender were ‘immoral’ and received with hostility; while the RSA and some doctors considered her a “guardian angel of the ANZACs”.

Pioneer Women - Hera Ngoungou

Television, 1983 (Full Length)

This episode in the Pioneer Women series dramatised the story of Hera Ngoungou. In 1874 in Taranaki, Māori kidnapped an eight-year-old Pākehā girl — Caroline “Queenie” Perrett — possibly in retribution for her father breaking a tapu. Her family didn’t see her again until she was 60, when she was a grandmother and had spent more than 50 years living with, and identifying as, Māori. A moving (Feltex award-winning) performance from Ginette McDonald (aka Lyn of Tawa) mixes stoicism with an acknowledgement of good times and a sense of loss for what might have been.

Pioneer Women - Princess Te Puea

Television, 1983 (Full Length Episode)

This episode of Pioneer Women dramatises the life of Waikato leader Te Puea Herangi: from prodigal daughter to leader of the Tainui people. Te Puea helped establish the Kingitanga movement, and led Tainui to prosperity through wars, confiscation of their land, and an influenza epidemic. Future TV3 newsreader Joanna Paul plays Te Puea. Produced by Pamela Meekings-Stewart, the Pioneer Women series screened in a high profile slot on TV One, and challenged the view that white male statesmen were the only noteworthy figures in New Zealand colonial history.

Series

Topless Women Talk about Their Lives (Series)

Television, 1995

The feature film Topless Women Talk about Their Lives evolved out of this late night, low budget, TV3 micro-series about the lives, loves and travails of a group of 20-something Aucklanders. It was written and directed by former Front Lawn member Harry Sinclair with a cast including Danielle Cormack and Joel Tobeck. Each four minute episode was shot over a weekend with actors not sighting scripts until just before the camera rolled. Music from Flying Nun bands featured prominently; the women remained fully clothed despite the tantalising titular promise.

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).

Women in Power - Indira Gandhi

Television, 1976 (Full Length)

This 1976 documentary examines India’s third Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. Her father took office as Prime Minister in 1947, the day India became independent from Britain. Framed around an extended interview with Gandhi, reporter Dairne Shanahan explores India and Indira’s history, and her controversial ‘emergency’ governing of the democracy’s 600 million people. The documentary was directed by Barry Barclay. As this article explains, Shanahan hoped it would be the pilot for a series, but it was never made. In October 1984 Gandhi was assassinated by two of her bodyguards.

Open Door - Positive Women

Television, 2011 (Full Length Episode)

Open Door is a community-based TV series where groups or individuals make a documentary about an issue that concerns them. This frank and moving episode is about Positive Women, a support organisation for women and families living with HIV or AIDS. The HIV positive women interviewed include health care worker Jan Waddell, who became HIV positive after a needle stick injury, and Marama Pala, who was diagnosed after sleeping with Peter Mwai, the musician who was later charged with having sex with multiple partners while knowing he was HIV positive.