Suffrage in stitches

Signatories on New Zealand's suffrage petition are commemorated in a textile artwork.

In 1893 New Zealand became the first country in the world to give women the vote. This followed the presentation to Parliament of a petition with 31,872 signatures from women, and some men, from all over New Zealand. The 125th anniversary in 2018 was marked by a number of events and projects, including the creation of an embroidered work which focussed on the petition. This project was conceived by Caroline O'Reilly of Vinnies Re Sew, who worked in collaboration with Wellington Museum.

Design lecturer Meg Brasell-Jones was one of those who contributed a 21.5 cm by 55.5cm panel. Meg designed and stitched a panel that commemorated the contribution of Bertha Mabel Ward to the petition. The project called for recycled materials which suited Meg who already incorporated sustainability into her practice, using vintage fabrics. Meg called her work 'In a field of roses, she is a wildflower,' to represent the way in which the signatories were standing out from what was the social norm.

The makers came from all over New Zealand and from diverse cultural and educational backgrounds. The finished work incorporates 546 panels (the number of pages in the petition), and every panel had to include 46 stitches representing the other signatories on each page of the petition). The work was first exhibited at the Wellington Museum from 2-31 August 2019 and then rehung for an exhibition 10 December to 27 April 2020.

August 2020