And since this week’s Daily Post Challenge asks us to be a tour guide in our home town, why don’t you grab your virtual sunscreen and water bottle and let’s take a wander around the places in which women collectively are acknowledged in Auckland.
Note: Auckland are has several public statues of and memorials to individual women — but that will have to wait for another post.
New Zealand was the first country in the world to legislate for women’s suffrage, and this is commemorated in a couple of pieces of public art here.
The most visible is the Women’s Suffrage Centenary Memorial, a tiled mosaic which covers several walls in a CBD plaza. The memorial was unveiled in 1993 by the then President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, and NZ’s (first woman) Governor General at the time, Dame Catherine Tizard.
In the early 2000s, the council planned to remove the mosaic as part of an upgrade to the area. Fortunately there was sufficient public protest that instead (after years of debate and indecision) the memorial was instead expanded, and part of the plaza renamed Te Ha o Hine Place.
Much better in my opinion than the original name — Khartoum Place — which commemorates a 19th century siege from Britain’s colonial past.
The second Women’s Suffrage Memorial is an stylised representation of a camellia, fashioned of corten steel (MVS Studio, 2013). Around the base, names of local women who signed the 1893 Suffrage Petition are inscribed.
The sculpture is located in a small rose garden at the intersection of two main roads.
I have driven past it dozens of times since it was unveiled in 2013, and had no idea what it was until I actually researched suffrage memorials.
Equally hidden in plain sight is the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Hall, which seems (confusingly) to also be called the Ellen Melville Centre.
I mentioned to quite a few people that I was doing this post, and would include the hall. I was met with universally blank stares, until I described its (quite prominent, CBD) location. Then I got “oh, is that what it’s called.”
The building has recently been refurbished and now has a bronze sculpture by artist Lisa Reihana adorning one wall.
The Ellen Melville Centre and camellia memorials may be hidden in plain sight, but the sculpture, Statue of a Cloaked Woman by Christine Hellyar, is just plain hidden.
The sculpture is located in Alice Wylie Reserve (1) in the suburb of Mt Albert. It was commissioned in 1995 by the Mt Albert Women’s Memorial Committee to acknowledge and celebrate the contribution of women to the well-being of the local community.
Statue of a Cloaked Woman is a bronze, cast on site by the artist. It sits in the middle of a garden, surrounded by tall trees and barely visible from any part of the park or the street beyond. There is no path leading to the sculpture, and access is through a garden.
This seems particularly sad, as amongst the women who have served Mt Albert (as Members of Parliament alone) are Helen Clark, NZ’s first elected woman Prime Minister; and our current PM, Jacinda Ardern, who is not only our youngest, but also the first Prime Minister of NZ to be pregnant in office.
I suspect, that tucked away in other parts of Auckland, there will be other monuments to women — collectively as well as individually. Now my task is to find them.
- Alice Wylie was a local Councillor, Deputy Mayor and political figure in the Mt Albert area.