Camellias and Kate and Rare Breeds

Since the flowering of the sasanqua camellias on my birthday, Camelia In CameraI have noticed references to camellias blooming all over my field of vision. Well, by all over, I mostly mean the internet. It’s as if a silent, floral force of camellias has stealthily invaded my cyberspace whilst I have had my eyes temporarily distracted by its earthly representatives. I feel as though I am being camellia-stalked….yes, really, stalked! But that is an unkind thought so I will attribute a purer motive; here it is.  Camellias are simply experimenting with ways to communicate with our increasingly de-naturalised societies.

Who knows? Not me. But, what I do know, is that in the past week I have encountered abundant camellias on the bush in RL.  And, in my internet life, I have met them in books,  blogs, movies, opera, history, (thanks to this wonderful post by blogger Valerie Davies ( ), and in politics.  Today, I also realised, back in real life, that I often carry camellias in my pocket, for these natural beauties have infiltrated the financial realm. They are  part of our currency.

Three white camellia blooms appear on the New Zealand $10 note. Kate and Camellia They sit in the company of Kate Sheppard; the woman who is credited with leading the fight for women’s suffrage in New Zealand. Thanks to Kate and her campaigners, New Zealand became, in 1893, the first self-governing nation in the world to grant the vote to all women over the age of 21.( ) When the Electoral Bill  was before Parliament,  women suffragettes handed out white camellias to those Members of Parliament who supported the Bill.

Why camellias were chosen to represent women’s right to vote, I have not yet discovered.  It may be that the choice was made under the influence of a popular Victorian interest in  floriology and tussie-mussies.  But it’s most likely that the reason for their choice was more prosaic than that; the camellias would have been one of the few flowers  in plentiful supply in September.  Whatever the reason, the white camellia became, and remains, the symbol of women’s suffrage in New Zealand.

Kate Sheppard was born in Liverpool in March 1847. She arrived in  Christchurch in 1869 and here she stayed.  Kate at home in Christchurch ) She was a founding member of the New Zealand Women’s Christian Temperance Union which soon realised that, if women had the right to vote, it would be easier to achieve reforms concerning temperance and the welfare of women and children.

Much as I love our ten-dollar bank-note, I wonder how Kate, as a pillar of the temperance movement, would feel about her face gracing a bill that provides a means to  buy  alcohol. She might disapprove, or she might see some irony in the  possibility of a drinker   confronting  her in the eye before making a purchase.

Overall, I think she would probably see the bigger picture too.  As a excellent strategist she would understand that, by having her features constantly in the public arena, the importance of  women’s suffrage for the general good of humankind would never be forgotten. But enough of Kate. Let’s return to the camellia, who, it seems to me, is every inch as skilled a strategist as  Kate and her suffragettes.  How clever was the camellia to make itself irresistible to a winning campaign; to ensure a lasting place alongside the legacy of one of the most influential women in the world. It guaranteed not only its survival, but its proliferation.  Nice work from a little flower that let’s us believe that  all it does is pose languidly in our gardens.

The question?

Can Kate and the camellia’s winning ways rub off on our precious and vulnerable  blue whio featured on the reverse of the ten-dollar note?Help us Survive

A Tussie-mussie: In Kate Greenaway’s book The Language of Flowers, the white camellia japonica symbolises Perfected Loveliness.

© silkannthreades

33 thoughts on “Camellias and Kate and Rare Breeds

  1. Steve Schwartzman

    Too bad there wasn’t the interest in native plants back then that there is now (at least in some circles), or else Kate Sheppard might have chosen something indigenous as her symbol.

  2. Pingback: It’s been one hundred and twenty years …… | silkannthreades

  3. pleisbilongtumi

    what such famous name of Camellia. when you visit my country, Camellias are everywhere. They talk,sing,think,sleep and even cry in their own beauties. sometimes looks so fragile like any other woman in confusion. Lovely post, happy BD and I just love it.

  4. lensandpensbysally

    Isn’t it fascinating how the mind brings together what we think as desperate pieces, especially those that symbolize this or that. Really enjoyed this post.

  5. vsperry

    I like how you bring camellias and Kate together, I have learned more about your country and I have an explanation for why I am seeing a lot of camellias in my life right now. I like that they are finding a voice. We can plant them here but we are on the northern edge of their ability to thrive. Maybe I’ll try anyway.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, have a go. You may find you have a small micro climate in your garden that suits them very well. Then it would be another small victory for the proliferation of the camellia 🙂

  6. valeriedavies

    I’ve scrabbled through the internet to get here, and love it. What I can’t understand is that I am supposedly following you, but have never yet had any blogs posted from you… when blips occur on the internet I feel completely powerless.
    Anyway, thank you so much for your lovely mention in this fascinating post, and I will try to keep up with you by the way I got here, via your gravatar…!

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      How vexing. But at least you found me! I find that although I click Follow I also have to go to my Reader, and then click on edit on the right hand side of the page next to Blogs I Follow; then I find the blog I am following and click on instant notification of posts from that blogger. Even then, I sometimes miss posts!

  7. teamgloria

    a Most informative and excellent post!

    we love that Kate was a fierce scouser from the ‘Pool – makes sense – those women are extraordinary.

    and here’s another tussie mussie quote for your delight:

    “February 26, 1950: A dear near neighbour brought me a tussie-mussie this week. The dictionary defines tuzzy-muzzy, or tussie-mussie, as a bunch or a posy of flowers, a nosegay, and then disobligingly adds that the word is obsolete. I refuse to regard it as obsolete. It is a charming word;”

    (Vita Sackville-West)

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Oh Vita, I have always loved you. Now I love you more. A Tussie-mussie is a charming word. How dare the dictionary obsolete it! Kate was extraordinary. The house which was built for Kate is used for functions now and the present owner has created a garden that Vita would admire.

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, I am so pleased to have Rebecca’s quote. Oh dear, but it is not a hole in the note. The note has two transparent sections, almost a type of watermark I suppose.( I don’t know the technical terms.) I hoped that by placing purple paper behind the note that these transparent sections could be seen more clearly. But, clearly, that is not the case :(. I am sure Kate could survive a hole and much more!

  8. Clanmother

    I like Kate Sheppard! I never heard of her before – so thank you for the story. I found one of her quotes – it gave me goosebumps. Extraordinary woman; extraordinary times.

    “Is it right that your mother, your sister… should be classed with criminals and lunatics… ? Is it right that while the gambler, the drunkard, and even the wife-beater has a vote, earnest, educated and refined women are denied it?… Is it right… that a mother… should be thought unworthy of a vote that is freely given to the blasphemer, the liar, the seducer, and the profligate?”


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