Friday, 9 May 2008

Celebrating Women's Right to Vote

This has been an interesting week. I discovered that there had been at least two plants planted in Otautau in honour of the Women's Suffrage Centennial back in the 1990s. One was a white camellia, and the other a white rose. Through some very good sleuthing by local folks, it was revealed that these plants no longer exist. They had died for one reason or another.

As a volunteer for the museum last year, I got curious about whether the women of Otautau had signed the Women's Suffrage petition of 1893. I found out that they did and was able to procure a digital copy of the Otautau petition from the National Archives for the museum. Reading the list of names is like a Who's Who of Otautau:

Jane Cupples
Jane Lee
Barbara Lindsay
Jane Shaw
M. P. Johnston
C. McNeil
M. Cameron
I. Lawson
J. Gardiner
B. S. McLaren
E. F. Cotter
M. T. Hogan
Catherine Campbell
Annie Croft
Annie Gilchrist
Rebecca Wohlmann
Margaret Forbes
Emily Rogers
Elizabeth Price
Elizabeth Norman
Ellen M. Blatch
Elen Hill
Jessie Pankhurst
L. C. Matheson
A. L. Clothier
Mary Manson
Jane Acheson
Isabella Parmenter
Alice Gaines
Margaret McAfee
Florrie McDonald
Annie Hill
Jessie Smith
Mrs. Raitton
M. Thomson
M. Carmichael
Catherine Keveney
J. Greenslade
A. Walker
C. Cameron
A. Swap
Jane Morrison
Isibella Forbs
Mrs. Forbes
Mrs. Anne Ketteg

This is by no means everyone who had signed. There were some Otautau women who happened to be in Invercargill, for example, when they signed the petition and so ended up on the Invercargill roll. It will take a little more sleuthing to collect their names and add them to the list.

But here's the point of my post. Getting the right to vote was obviously important to the Otautau women of 1893. And celebrating the centennial by planting a white camellia and rose was obviously important to the women of the 1990s. So where does that leave us now? Should we plant a new camellia in honour of Women's Suffrage and all the women of the town who dared to claim their right to vote?

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