On 19 September 2018, exactly 125 years since Aotearoa became the first self-governing country in the world to grant women the vote, Te Papa has opened a pop-up exhibition and launched a new Te Papa Press publication to mark Suffrage 125.
Dr Bronwyn Labrum, Te Papa’s Head of New Zealand and Pacific Cultures and her team are using stories from the last 125 years to reflect on gender rights today.
“2018 provides us with an opportunity to look at the legacy of female suffrage – to celebrate the milestones that have been fought for and won, but to also acknowledge that the battle for equality is ongoing," says Labrum. “I remember the centennial suffrage celebrations in 1993, and the reality is that not much has fundamentally changed in terms of advances in women’s rights in the last 25 years. There is still pay inequality, while sexism and sexual abuse are experienced at every level of society.
“However, the tide certainly feels like it’s turning. There’s renewed energy, a braveness to ‘call it’ and momentum for change. I feel very hopeful about the changes we’ll be able to examine for Suffrage 150."
Pop-up exhibition: Te Tohe mō ngā Take Wāhine / Doing It for Themselves: Women Fight for Equality
To honour Suffrage 125, Te Papa curators have initiated a special collecting project, sourcing contemporary items related to women’s rights. Recent acquisitions include a breast pump from former Green MP and writer Holly Walker, the NopeSisters T-shirt which addresses sexual abuse, a menstrual cup from MyCup, a company committed to ending period poverty, a suit worn by Dame Jenny Shipley on her first day in office as New Zealand’s first-ever female Prime Minister, and Luamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban’s puletasi (formal Sāmoan outfit) which she wore to give her maiden speech as New Zealand’s first Pacific Island female Member of Parliament.
Dr Katie Cooper, who is heading the collecting project and curator of the exhibition says it "honours women who fought and continue to fight for gender equality".
"We’re presenting the tools they have used to make their voices heard, and markers of their success,” says Cooper.
Te Tohe mō ngā Take Wāhine / Doing It for Themselves: Women Fight for Equality, will be located on level 3, Te Papa and will run until the end of February 2019.