A letter from 2019 to 1893

A letter from 2019 to 1893





These little panels, each one part of the family of 546, honour the original signatories of Aotearoa New Zealand's 1893 suffrage petition.

One has my wobbly embroidery of the signature of Mary Hames (1827-1919).The driving force of her family, Mary led her husband and four sons on a 33-day trek on foot during winter to their allotted property in Kaipara soon after their arrival in New Zealand.

She cleared the bush with a saw in preparation for farming, raised six children in a leaking hut they built themselves, cooked everything from scratch and dealt with all manner of dramas arising from living in an isolated area. Could you pacify your child while trying to figure out to treat and set their broken bone? Could you fashion a coffee substitute from turnips?

On top of all this, Mary held down occasional paid work in town to earn the cash to buy provisions and livestock.

She sounds like she had absolute determination and character. So, to honour her life, undoubtedly similar to many others, I created a panel that depicted the wildness of the forest and its development into cultivated land, on which much of New Zealand's prosperity is now based.

JET was proud to sponsor the Suffrage in Stitches textile craft project by documenting the official opening today.

While the panels are all gorgeous, it's the back stories of all the colonial signatories that are really captivating and inspiring.

Of the roughly 32,000 signatories, about 20 were men and five can be identified as Māori wahine. It would have been a big deal for them, in particular, to sign a petition to disrupt 'the natural order' to enable 'lady voters'.

It has been such a thrill to see my handwork on public display in an exhibition. I shall always remember it.

What would these 32,000 signatories have thought, if they could have known what life would be like 126 years after they signed this petition.

What would they think if they could have known that in 2019 both genders would be eligible to vote, that their actions would inspire an artistic exhibition in a public gallery of the capital city, and that their names would be celebrated by people they had never met who were awed by the stories of their lives and grateful for contributing to the forging of the way of life that we enjoy today.

If only they had known all this. What a thrill they would have got as they signed their name across those petition pages in 1893.