The real housewives of Dunedin: the Dunedin Housewives’ Union Dunedin Housewives’ Association : Records (1930 – 1977) AG-002

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post prepared by Kari Wilson-Allan, Hocken Collections Assistant, Researcher Services

Today being International Women’s Day, it seems fitting to delve into the history of some Dunedin women – our own real housewives.

Established in late 1930, in the midst of the Great Depression, the Dunedin Housewives’ Union, headed up by the dynamo Mrs Alice Herbert, aimed to become a ‘real live and effective power in this part of the Dominion’. Meetings were held fortnightly, initially in the Dunedin Trades Hall, with a 2/6 annual membership fee.

First page, Minute Book (1930 – 1941) AG-002-01

Subjects under discussion revolved around, among other things, the quality and cost of foodstuffs, fuel, schoolbooks, and housing. Meat was ‘the foundation of the usual daily dinner’ and therefore ‘of utmost importance to the housewife’. That available in Dunedin was the ‘dearest in the Dominion’.  Milk and bread also drew attention; calls for the pasteurisation of milk and the packaging of bread appeared in local newspapers, along with requests for a municipal milk supply as a means to cut distribution costs.

Media coverage of riots in Dunedin, Otago Witness, 12 January 1932, p.20.

Fundraising events were common features in the women’s calendars. They organised bazaars, jumble sales, hat-trimming competitions, guess-the-weight-of-the-ham competitions (ham kindly supplied by Wolfenden and Russell), even baby shows.  A ‘hot pea and hot dog stall’ in 1931 was the cause of ‘much meriment [sic] ’.

As well as supporting the community with events like the 1933 party for the old-age pensioners at Talboys’ Home (lollies donated by Wardell’s Grocery), which was intended to ‘bring a little brightness into their drab lives’, the women looked after their own.  One member was gifted cocoa as she was ‘in great need of additional nourishment’.

The employment and unemployment of women concerned the Union.  It was recognised that often young women would be hired for a short period of time and then dismissed, leading to insecurity.  Compounding the problem was the higher costs of living in the South Island, where food and clothing were dearer.  The importation of foreign goods also raised their ire.

Temptations to housewives, Minute Book (1930 – 1941) AG-002-01, p.144

Housing conditions were decried; condemned buildings were at times tenanted. Washing facilities were in short supply, women needed to be recruited as inspectors, and to have a larger role in the City Council over all.

Housewives’ concerns, Minute Book (1930 – 1941) AG-002-01, p.125

Meetings often featured speakers or debates.  One such debate in 1933 on the subject of birth control proved to be ‘very interesting’, and at its conclusion, members shared their personal opinions, which were both ‘amusing and instructive’.

A selection of speakers’ subjects in the Union’s first decade, Notes on the history of the Association, AG-002-13

 

Who were the women of the Union?  This is not an easy question to answer.  Members of the Executive of the first year included a Mrs. Seddon, a Mrs. Anderson and a Mrs. Allen.  Without their first initials, finding the correct woman in electoral rolls has proved to be a minefield.  Sometimes the addition of a husband’s initial was a vital clue.

The members certainly had adequate time to contribute to their cause, to pay their annual dues and rent their premises.  Based on this and a number of other clues, I surmise that they were certainly not the poorest of the poor at that time.  They had education behind them, and political contacts.

Alice Herbert’s husband was the Secretary for the Dunedin Drivers’ and Storemens’ Union, and he, along with Alice, was heavily involved in the Labour Party.  In 1934, Alice tendered her resignation for the president’s role, based on her other commitments, but this was refused pending a determination of how time-consuming her other political activities would prove to be.  That the Union did not accept her resignation seems a signifier of her great influence and energy.

Women around New Zealand came to hear of the Dunedin Union, and made contact, wanting to establish similar groups of their own.  Unions formed in Invercargill, Waimate and Napier and elsewhere, eventually growing a network around the country.  Affiliations with the National Council of Women developed, and by the 1950s, the name Union was dropped for the less combative sounding Association.

It would be unfair of me to allude to ‘real housewives’ without supplying some element of drama.  The minutes do indicate certain conflicts of interest, perceived insults and tempestuous resignations, but to focus on these would belittle the valuable contributions made to the community.  Certainly as membership grew, challenges arose.  Rules were established, and prospective members needed to be introduced by current members to be admitted.  By June 1934 there was concern that ‘misrepresentation’ could arise as a consequence of ‘business [of the Union] being discussed outside the organization’, and in October of that year it was declared that ‘loyalty to our union must be shown.’

Minute Book (1930 – 1941) AG-002-01, p.164

 

Curiosity piqued by this first minute book?  Come in and explore them further.  The minute books stretch from 1930 through to 1974, are unrestricted, and contain myriad avenues for investigation.

 

Vogue New Zealand: A Decade of Home-Grown Glamour

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 | Anna Blackman | 1 Comment

Blog post prepared by Kate Hyland, Library Assistant

The Hocken’s periodicals collection is home to a range of fashion-related material. Perhaps one of the most glamorous titles we hold is Vogue New Zealand – our nation’s very own edition of the famous title published from 1957 to 1968. Though New Zealand’s Vogue was short-lived, the magazine is a valuable resource for today’s readers: the preserved copies represent an important decade in New Zealand’s fashion history.

Vogue New Zealand began as an offshoot for British Vogue. Edited from the U.K., the early issues spoke of patriotism for England: New Zealand readers were encouraged to sew with British materials, and New Zealand garments were flown out of the country to be photographed in ‘proper’ English settings. Early features were mostly international and, besides advertising, there was little to indicate that the publication was intended for an antipodean audience. One exception is found in the magazine’s fashion advice, where suggestions were made about where Vogue clothing could be worn in New Zealand. The following extract details appropriate places to sport “cotton sailcloth” items by Voyageur:

 “Bottom right: More white, per leg-pocket shorts and tying shirt, brighter beneath a red beach blazer. Three sun-active parts, for Queenstown or perhaps Waitemata Harbour this summer…” (1959:Summer, page 57).

Image 12

Vogue New Zealand cover, 1959 : Summer, and “Sun Dash” Vogageur items pictured bottom right, (1959 : Summer, page 57).

The magazine’s British accent did not silence its developing New Zealand voice however. By 1960, production of the magazine had moved from England to Australia with editor Sheila Scotter appointed to oversee Vogue New Zealand and Vogue Australia. These developments – including the coming of local editorial talent such as Michal McKay – saw the magazine’s distinctive New Zealand style begin to flourish. New Zealand photographers, fashionable New Zealand homes, elegant New Zealand women and, of course, New Zealand designers were brought to the fore. In true Kiwi style, country living and woollen garments became a heavy focus for the magazine.

Image 13

“Evening Looks on Elegant New Zealanders”. v.10 : no 2 (1966 : Winter, page 40) and “Wool Elegance” – advertisement for the New Zealand Wool Board. v.12 : no.2 (1968 : Winter, page 31).

Vogue New Zealand positioned our nation as one in-touch with global trends and capable of producing high fashion garments. New Zealand designers, like Bruce Papos, or El Jay, were celebrated by the publication, inspiring confidence in local design. The local industry also benefitted from the magazine’s showcasing of the latest in European fashion. For example, the repeated feature “What goes on in other Vogues” informed readers of the styles trending in global fashion centres such as Paris or Italy. In another feature, readers were encouraged to write to the magazine and request Vogue sewing patterns. Access to these designs was not exclusive; the professional and the non-professional alike had the means to create some of the most fashionable clothes of the era.

Image 14

Bruce Papos advertisement (1958 : Autumn/Winter, page 5). Patterns for these garments were available on request. v.11 : no.3 (1967 : Summer, page 83). “What goes on in other Vogues: Italy”. v.11 : no.2 (1967 : Winter, page 83).

Trending fashions were not stagnant during the magazine’s run, of course. Fashion, as we know, is subject to change, and the magazine documents some of the era’s major changes in style. For example, looks from the late fifties vary greatly to those of the sixties. Scanning the issues today, we can see that a traditional and lady-like aesthetic prevails in the fifties; however a youthful and rebellious style emerges in the sixties. This step away from tradition is echoed in Vogue New Zealand’s “Breakaways” feature from 1966, which reads:

“Who are the Breakaways? They are the girls who bolted the pack: stepped out of the mould – then smashed it to smithereens. They are the Look of today, of this generation”. (1966:Spring, page 51).

Image 15

A traditional look from the fifties (1958 : Autumn/Winter, page 52). “The Breakaways” feature shows a distinct change in style. v.10 : no.3 (1966 : Spring, page 57). Colour image from “The Breakaways” v.10 : no.3 (1966 : Spring, page 56).

Vogue New Zealand’s decade-long run was an important time in the history of New Zealand fashion. The magazine supported New Zealand’s developing fashion industry and connected Kiwi’s with the world of couture culture. Today, the preserved copies offer a fascinating record of this time and the changing fashions within it. Like many treasures at the Hocken, Vogue New Zealand offers us a glimpse into the past and tells us a story that is unique to New Zealand’s history. We encourage those who are interested by this magazine (or related material) to visit the library and view the items first-hand. Donations from the public are also welcomed; we are always looking for material that will enrich Dr. Hocken’s ever-growing collection.

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The Hocken’s collection of Vogue New Zealand to date.

References:

Hill, M. (2011) New Zealand in Vogue. New Zealand Journal Of History [Online] 45 (2), 274-275. Available from: MasterFILE Complete, EBSCOhost [Accessed 28th October 2015].

Sun Dash. (1959:Summer) Vogue New Zealand, 57.

Te Papa: Museum of New Zealand. (2011) New Zealand in Vogue [Online] Available from: http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/WhatsOn/exhibitions/Pages/NZinVogue.aspx. [Accessed 28th October 2015].

The Breakaways. (1966:Spring) Vogue New Zealand 10 (3), 51.

Vogue Australia. (2011)  A decade of Vogue New Zealand. [Online] Available from: http://www.vogue.com.au/culture/whats+on/a+decade+of+vogue+new+zealand,12965.

[Accessed 29th Oct 2015].

 

Winifred Betts – botany pioneer

Monday, September 8th, 2014 | Anna Blackman | 2 Comments

Post prepared by Dr Ali Clarke, Library Assistant (Reference)

This year the University of Otago Department of Botany is celebrating its 90th anniversary. In honour of the occasion, I’ve been looking back at the beginnings of botany, as revealed in the university’s archives here at the Hocken. Although the “department” is generally dated from 1924, when John Holloway began as lecturer, botany was taught as early as the 1870s. In the university’s early decades, when student numbers were small, there were very few teaching staff and they had a wide brief. The first professor of “natural science” – F.W. Hutton – taught geology as well as biology. The 1877 University Calendar offered a general introductory course called “Principles of Biology,” as well as papers in zoology and botany. This pattern was to continue for several decades. The 1877 botany course covered “the structure, functions, and distributions of the orders of cryptograms, and the principal orders of phanerogams,” as well as “the use of the microscope.”

Geology and biology were separated into two positions after Hutton left in 1880. Thomas Parker held the chair in biology from 1880 to 1897 and William Benham from 1898 to 1937. Both were brilliant scientists, but their chief research interests were in zoology rather than botany. As the university grew, the workload of teaching all aspects of biology to science, medical, dental and home science students became increasingly burdensome. Professor Benham managed to get an assistant – Winifred Farnie – to help with biology teaching from 1916 to 1918. In 1918 he suggested that it was time for the university to appoint a lecturer in botany, but the Council decided to delay for a year. The 1919 calendar notes that instruction in botany “is not provided at present” – presumably Benham had decided he was over-stretched and could no longer offer the course. He repeated his request for a botany lecturer to the council that year, and this time approval was granted. Benham already had somebody in mind for the post – his former student Winifred Betts.

OU Review 1917

Otago University Graduates of 1917, including Winifred Betts and Winifred Farnie

Rather than simply appointing Betts, the council decided to advertise the post of botany lecturer. Were they, perhaps, reluctant to appoint a woman? As it turned out, they received three applications, all from women, and selected Betts as Otago’s first botany lecturer. For Benham, this was a long overdue development. In 1919, writing in honour of the university’s jubilee, he commented: “It is a curious fact that in each of the four colleges in New Zealand it has been expected that one man shall undertake to teach efficiently those two subjects [zoology and botany], which in England, even in fourth-rate educational institutions, have for many years been entrusted to two distinct individuals.” He was happy to report that Otago had now “set the example to the other University Colleges by appointing a lecturer in botany”.

Winnie Betts was just 25 years old when she commenced her new position at the beginning of 1920. Born in Moteuka, she was educated at Nelson College for Girls, receiving a University National Scholarship in 1911. She then came to Otago, graduating BSc in 1916 and MSc in 1917. She was clearly one of the more capable students of her era, and by 1915 Benham had selected her as a demonstrator in biology. On completing her MSc she received a National Research Scholarship – one was awarded at each university each year. This provided her with an income of £100 a year along with lab expenses so she could carry out independent research. In 1919, at a lecture to an admittedly partisan audience in Nelson, distinguished botanist Leonard Cockayne described Betts as “the most brilliant woman scientist in New Zealand.”

S14-586a

Winifred Betts

 

In December 1920 Winnie Betts married another brilliant Otago graduate, the mathematician Alexander Aitken. Aitken, whose studies were interrupted by war service (he was badly wounded at the Somme), was by then teaching at Otago Boys’ High School. This was an era when most women left paid employment when they married, so it is intriguing that Winnie Aitken continued working as botany lecturer for some years. She joined a handful of women on Otago’s academic staff. As well as the women of the School of Home Science, there were Isabel Turnbull in Latin, Gladys Cameron in Bacteriology and Public Health and Bertha Clement in English; others came and went during Winnie’s years at Otago.

Winnie Aitken’s career as botany lecturer came to an end in December 1923. Her husband had been awarded a scholarship for postgraduate study and they moved to Edinburgh, where he had a long and distinguished academic career as a mathematician. Alexander died in 1967 and Winnie in 1971; they had two children. Various women have since taught botany at the University of Otago; indeed, it has been one of the more gender-balanced of the academic departments. As the department celebrates its 90th anniversary with Prof Kath Dickinson at its head, it seems an appropriate moment to remember the woman who pioneered it all!

The New Zealand Women’s Weekly

Monday, June 25th, 2012 | Anna Blackman | 2 Comments

Our earlliest issue from 1933

New Zealand’s longest running women’s magazine is turning 80 this year. The New Zealand Woman’s Weekly has been celebrating recently after more than 4000 issues. The magazine has remained popular over its 80 year history and it is the most highly used periodical title in the Hocken. Students and researchers have been using the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly for all sorts of research, and one of the most recent examples of this was Frances Walsh’s book, “Inside stories: a history of the New Zealand housewife“.
 
2 January 1941
While the Hocken has a good collection of the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, including some microfilm, it is far from complete. From the 1930s to the late 1960s we have many gaps. We would love to receive any New Zealand Woman’s Weekly issues that people don’t want anymore and we need. We rely mostly on public generosity for these older issues.

7 July 1986
 Please email or call us if you think you might have something, we would love to hear from you.


Some recent issues

Email: serials.hocken@otago.ac.nz   Ph 03 479 4372


Blog post prepared by Library Assistant – Periodicals, Megan Vaughan