Suffrage and service, celebrating women in Auckland’s public art

Part of the Women's Suffrage Centenial Memorial in Auckland. Designed by Claudia Pond Eyley, tiles made by Jan Morrison. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Part of the Women’s Suffrage Centenial Memorial in Auckland. Designed by Claudia Pond Eyley, tiles made by Jan Morrison. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

I mentioned in passing a couple of weeks ago, that I’d been inspired by a post by Anabel at The Glasgow Gallivanter (Hidden Histories) to search out the monuments and memorials to women in Auckland.

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.

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Women’s Suffrage Centenary Memorial, Te Ha o Hine Place, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

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Detail of Women’s Suffrage Centenary Memorial, showing the Suffrage Petition signed by over 25,500 women in 1893. Te Ha o Hine Place, Auckland.

The memorial was created by artists Claudia Pond Eyley and Jan Morrison.

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.

This comes from a Maori proverb, ‘Me aro koe ki te Hā o Hine-ahu-one’ and translates as ‘pay heed to the dignity of women’. (Stuff, 2 September 2016)

Much better in my opinion than the original name — Khartoum Place — which commemorates a 19th century siege from Britain’s colonial past.

Stylised corten steel camellia forms the Women's Suffrage Memorial (2013), created by MVS Studio and located in Rose Park, Mt Roskill, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Women’s Suffrage Memorial (2013), created by MVS Studio and located in Rose Park, Mt Roskill, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

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.

The Pioneer Women's Hall / Ellen Melville Centre, Freyberg Place, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

The Pioneer Women’s Memorial Hall / Ellen Melville Centre, Freyberg Place, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

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.

Entitled Justice, it references Ellen Melville, the second woman in New Zealand to qualify as a lawyer (admitted to the Bar in 1906), and very important figure in the country’s women’s movement.

Justice, by Lisa Reihana. Sculpture in bronze on the wall of the O-Connell Street facade of the Ellen Melville Centre, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Justice (2017), by Lisa Reihana. Sculpture in bronze on the wall of the O-Connell Street facade of the Ellen Melville Centre, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

 

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.

Amongst the trees, Statue of a Cloaked Woman, Christine Hellyar, 1994. Located in Alice Wylie Reserve, Mt Albert. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Amongst the trees, Statue of a Cloaked Woman, Christine Hellyar, 1995. Located in Alice Wylie Reserve, Mt Albert. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

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, Christine Hellyar, cast in bronze. Located in Alice Wylie Reserve, Mt Albert, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Statue of a Cloaked Woman, Christine Hellyar, cast in bronze. Located in Alice Wylie Reserve, Mt Albert, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

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.

Daily Post Photo Challenge | tour guide


  1. Alice Wylie was a local Councillor, Deputy Mayor and political figure in the Mt Albert area.
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Regular Random: five minutes in the flower beds at Albert Park

Close up shot of fly sitting on white daisy-like flower. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Right; this is a bit roundabout, so pay attention.

The other day I read Anabel’s (The Glasgow Gallivanter) post Hidden Histories (1) — about the ways in which women and our achievements are publicly commemorated — and it occurred to me that I could only think of a couple of public monuments to women in my city — Auckland.

One of them — the Practically-Compulsory-in-Former-British-Colonies statue of Queen Victoria — is in Albert Park, in the CBD. (Fun fact: we also have a Victoria Park, but it doesn’t contain a statue of Prince Albert.)

It’s Auckland’s Anniversary Weekend right now, and the city is busier than usual. That’s why I found myself in Albert Park yesterday morning at 8am. I duly photographed Queen Vic (post about monuments to women to follow). But since I’d paid for parking, I decided to hang around and take photos of the flower beds, which were bursting with these lovelies.

I think they are Cosmos, but I totally defer to all the gardeners who’ll probably tell me otherwise.

It would be a nice neat narrative if, at this point, I unveiled a connection between the flowers and Queen Victoria.

But I don’t have one. So here’s a monument to a powerful woman; the only one I’ve found who never set foot in New Zealand and who got her job by outliving her relatives.

Bronze statue of Queen Victoria. Made in 1899 by Francis John Williamson, and sited in Albert Park, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Bronze statue of Queen Victoria. Made in 1899 by Francis John Williamson, and sited in Albert Park, Auckland. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Five Minutes of Random (the #RegularRandom challenge) is hosted by Desley Jane at Musings of a Frequently Flying Scientist.

If you’d like to join in:

  • choose a subject or a scene
  • spend five minutes photographing it – no more!
  • try to see it from many angles, look through something at it, change the light that’s hitting it
  • tag your post #regularrandom and ping back to Desley’s post
  • have fun!

(1) Actually a guest post for Donna at Retirement Reflections — but the sentence was already getting waaaay too long and complicated.

Six Word Saturday: another day, another couple of beaches

Boy and couple watching waves crash over the seawall at Mairangi Bay, Auckland, NZ during a storm in early January 2018. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Storm-watching, Mairangi Bay, Auckland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2018

Friday flip through the archives: on beach walks and reading the stories of the land

This seemed appropriate for a Friday flip; both in terms of the current Daily Post theme of textures, and the conversations I’ve been having with Andy from Eye For a Pic about the geology of my hometown (and his), and of these “Shaky Isles” on which I now live.

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Waitemata sandstone; the sedimentary rock that forms the cliffs around much of Auckland's shoreline. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015 Waitemata sandstone; the sedimentary rock that forms the cliffs around much of Auckland’s shoreline. Castor  Bay, Auckland. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

There was a moment, thirty odd years ago, when I considered switching from a social sciences degree to one in earth science — specifically geology. I like puzzles, and it’s always seemed to me that rocks contain all the clues necessary for a really good puzzle — if only one can read them.

Auckland, where I live, is built on around 53 volcanoes, and New Zealand generally is one of the most geologically active places in the world. Our rock formations then, are tapestries which tell of tectonic events on a monumental and destructive scale.

The cliffs of East Coast Bays, where these photos were taken, are comprised of sandstone; volcanic sediments deposited when Auckland was submerged under ancient seas.

Waitemata sandstone, with layers of iron and other minerals. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015 Waitemata sandstone, with layers of iron and other minerals…

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The Changing Seasons: June 2017

Close up shot of fallen Liquidamber (?) leaf against black background. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

The last leaf. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

It’s mid-winter here; although some days you would be totally forgiven for believing it’s still summer.

Days that began in heavy mist have ended with us barefoot and t-shirt clad on a beach.

If there is a theme (or perhaps an obsession) in this month’s photos, it is light. Harsh light, filtered light, reflected light — or just the focus on a single object in the dark.

Close-up shot of arum lily, against black background. Image; Su Leslie, 2017

Arum lily. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

The Changing Seasons  is a blogging challenge hosted by Cardinal Guzman with two versions: the original (V1) which is purely photographic and the new version (V2) where you can allow yourself to be more artistic and post a painting, a recipe, a digital manipulation, or simply just one photo that you think represents the month.

These are the rules, but they’re not written in stone – you can always improvise, mix & match to suit your own liking:

The Changing Seasons V1:

Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery.
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.

The Changing Seasons V2:

Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons
Each month, post one photo (recipe, painting, drawing, whatever) that represents your interpretation of the month.
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!