Tag Archives: pioneering women

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 (http://valeriedavies.com/2012/05/ ), 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.( http://www.christchurch.org.nz/Women/ ) 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 Christchurchhttp://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Society/People/S/Sheppard-Kate/ ) 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 Survivehttp://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/native-animals/birds/wetland-birds/blue-duck-whio/facts/about-whio/

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

© silkannthreades

The oldest exotic tree

Yesterday I poached pears and made a pear cake using pears from my neighbour’s tree. Pears without peach and plum

With my mouth and my mind very involved with pears, I decided that, today, I would visit the oldest exotic tree in Christchurch, and that tree happens to be a pear tree.

Here it is; the French Durondeau Pear tree planted in 1846.Durondeau Pear 1846

It was planted by the Deans brothers in their flourishing orchard in the grounds of Riccarton House. Only, at that time, there was no Riccarton House, just the Deans Cottage which was built in 1843.  The Deans supplied fruit and vegetables and young trees to the main body of settlers who arrived in 1850.

I find it hard to believe that the Durondeau is so old. Not only older than other exotic trees but older than most of our buildings.  To my eyes, it remains vigorous and strong.  Looking good

It still bears fruit.Pears in a pear tree I picked up one of the free fall pears.  I hope it will ripen. I am curious to know what it will taste like. Many of the other trees planted by the Deans, including John’s wife, Jane,  are still flourishing and are now notable and protected trees.Care for the Trees please

The story of John and Jane Deans is a lovely, but sad, one for Valentine’s Day. They met in Scotland prior to 1841 near Jane’s family home at Auchenflower. John came to New Zealand in 1842. Ten years later he returned to Scotland to marry Jane at  Riccarton, Ayrshire, Scotland. They left Scotland in October 1852 and arrived in Lyttelton, New Zealand, in February 1853. Jane gave birth to their only child in August 1853. Her husband John, died in June 1854.  Jane could have returned to Scotland but she stayed on, and with support from her family, continued to develop Riccarton house and farm and carry out her husband’s wishes for the preservation of Riccarton Bush. She was a remarkable woman. http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1d6/deans-jane

© silkannthreades

Me, the Tree, and Helen

I have been to many places in recent months, engaging with a  number of our city’s beautiful  trees, all the while forgetting, until today, that there is a tree in Christchurch with which  I am closely connected. The tree is a Liriodendron tulipifera and it was planted by myself and a friend on 22 October 2000, in the grounds of the Cathedral Grammar School, on Chester Street West.

The Tulip Tree is now 12 years taller;

Tulip Tree The tree was planted to commemorate the site of Helen Connon Hall.Commemorative Plaque It was the first and, so far, only time I have planted a commemorative tree, and it was a special occasion in my life. For a moment, I felt almost royal.

The tree planting idea came from  a wonderful group of women who organised a  successful reunion of “old students” of Helen Connon Hall; the university hall of residence once occupied the ground on which these school playing grounds now stand. And the games go on My friend and I lived at Helen Connon for one academic year, 1974, and that was its final year as a hall of residence, and its only year as a men’s and women’s residence. So, we represented the youngest and the last of the Hall’s occupants. (Not often that I get to be the youngest at an event!) It was the final year, not because we trashed it, although the shenanigans created by the excitement of a mixed residence were plenty, but because the university had completed its move from the central city to its new site at Ilam. The town facilities were no longer required.

Helen Connon Hall was the first residential hall at Canterbury College (later to become the University of Canterbury). It was opened in 1918 and was for female students only, except for that one last year of its life as a residence.

So that is me and the tree. What about Helen?

Typically for me and, no doubt, most of the populace, I had no idea, when I lived in the hall named after her, who Helen Connon was. In fact, I still didn’t know much about her when I helped to plant the tree. It was only after the publication, in 2004, of Margaret Lovell-Smith’s excellent  book, “Easily the Best, the Life of Helen Connon  1857 -1903”, that I began to appreciate her magnificence, and her influence on women’s education. She was a carpenter’s daughter who became, in 1880, the second woman arts graduate in the British Empire.  In1881, she became the first woman in the British Empire to earn a degree with honours; MA with first-class honours in English and Latin. And she did that right here, in Christchurch, New Zealand. As well as being a fine academic, she was a leading figure in education, as a teacher and  Lady Principal of Christchurch Girls High School. For more information, link to  http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2c28/1

 Helen Connon Helen ConnonI don’t know what Helen Connon would have made of me  and my ignorance of her but I think she would have been pleased that I was the first woman in my family to earn a degree. Nothing fancy, but I did it. And my daughter was the first person in our family to obtain an honours degree in Classics. So, we are slowly catching up with Helen Connon, the trail blazer, without whom my education, my mother’s and my daughter’s would most likely never have happened.

As for the tree; I think she would be happy with our choice. It was chosen for its longevity and its shade qualities and suitablility for its school playground home. Helen Connon believed that mental and physical education went hand in hand. Additionally, photos of her own garden show that she spent much of her life surrounded by beautiful trees.

Activate;

Physical Education

and contemplate.Contemplate

© silkannthreades