Pressing forward

Equal pay cartoon on Coalition for Equal Value Equal Pay tea towel (pic: private collection, Fran McGowan)

Equal pay cartoon on Coalition for Equal Value Equal Pay tea towel (pic: private collection, Fran McGowan)

The other day I read a rather gloomy article entitled ‘Gender pay gap still there: so what are we doing about it?’ On average New Zealand men still earn roughly 10% more than women for an hour’s work – and the gap has actually widened in the past year. Equal pay for women has been an issue here since the 19th century, when feminists identified it as one of the prerequisites for women’s emancipation. As the Te Ara entry on Women’s labour organisations shows, despite many years of activism, this goal has not yet been reached, even though the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1972. While the gross injustice of men being paid a higher rate than women for doing exactly the same job has been rectified, female-dominated occupations such as early childhood education and aged care are still poorly paid, a reflection of the low value society still places on the work of looking after and nurturing others – work traditionally done by women. Moreover, career progression is often fraught for women in all kinds of occupations, especially for the large number who work part-time or take breaks from the workforce to raise children.

There are promising signs though. Recently Lower Hutt rest-home caregiver Kristine Bartlett, with the support of the Service and Food Workers Union, took a test case against her employer, TerraNova, arguing that her measly pay of $14.46 an hour was less than the rate men with similar skills would earn, and was so low because she worked in an industry where most of the employees are female. The Employment Court found in her favour, ruling that female-dominated industries should receive pay equivalent to what would be offered if that industry was male-dominated, and after TerraNova appealed, the Court of Appeal agreed with the Employment Court decision. Inspired by this landmark victory, Wellington nurses Erin Kennedy and Ann Simmons have just gone to court, alleging that hundreds of women working as nurses and caregivers are being significantly underpaid.

I will be following this case with great interest, but in the knowledge that the fight for equal pay and pay equity has a very long history, and that progress has been slow and hard-won.

On 19 September we will mark another Suffrage Day, and New Zealanders will once again be reminded that New Zealand was the first country in the world where women gained the right to vote. It is good to celebrate this, but we should also remember what has still to be achieved. As Margaret Sievwright, one of those who campaigned successfully for the vote, remarked in 1894, ‘We have reached one milestone, it is true, the milestone of the suffrage; we pause, but only again to press forward.’

A history of Aotearoa in seven musical instruments

Māori girl playing a Jew's harp, early 1900s (pic: Alexander Turnbull Library, Tesla Studios Collection (PAColl-3046))

Māori girl playing a Jew's harp, early 1900s (pic: Alexander Turnbull Library, Tesla Studios Collection (PAColl-3046))

Following the success of Neil MacGregor’s radio series and book, A history of the world in 100 objects, it seems as though everyone is writing history through objects – and who am I to buck a popular trend? So, here are some key themes in the history of Aotearoa New Zealand, traced through musical instruments.

Pūtōrino – the natural environment. The pūtōrino is unique to New Zealand, and has both a flute-like ‘female’ voice and a trumpet-like ‘male’ voice, depending on how it is played. The story goes that Hine Raukatauri, daughter of Tāne, loved her pūtōrino so much that she decided to live inside it by turning herself into a case moth. The case moth’s long, tapering cocoon resembles, and may have inspired, the shape of the pūtōrino. Not only were taonga puoro, Māori musical instruments, made from natural materials but they were also inspired by the shapes and sounds of the natural world which Māori observed so closely.

Human voice – community. The power of the human voice unites us as human beings – almost everyone can sing or chant, after their own fashion. From the karanga welcoming visitors to the marae to traditional waiata telling of love, loss or ancestral deeds; more recent Māori songs of remembrance, celebration and political protest; folk songs recording the pleasures and pains of everyday life; wartime songs relieving the tension and boredom of military life; national anthems sung together on important occasions; the vocal virtuosity of beatboxing, an integral part of hip-hop culture; or the joy and power of singing together in choirs – singing reminds us that we belong to communities. Singing can be a means of self-expression, too, but even then we can take shared pleasure and pride in the talent of individual singers, from Kiri Te Kanawa to Lorde.

Jew’s harp – culture contact. The Jew’s harp is a small instrument played by placing one end in the mouth and plucking a reed attached to the frame, producing a twanging sound. Māori had a similar instrument, the rōria. Because they are so portable, Jew’s harps were brought to New Zealand from the earliest days of Pākehā settlement, and were used as part of the payment for the New Zealand Company’s ‘purchases’ of vast areas of Māori land (in Whanganui, for example). Like so many other new technologies and ideas, they were taken up enthusiastically by Māori, replacing traditional instruments.

Bugle – war. Māori had a number of instruments – such as the pūtātara and pūkāea (shell trumpet and wooden trumpet) – whose sound carried over long distances and which were therefore used for signalling in time of war. The bugle was used in a similar way by Pākehā. During the New Zealand wars, the bugle featured in such stories as that of Bugler Allen, killed at Boulcott’s Farm in the Hutt Valley, and Te Kooti’s lieutenant Peka Makarini, who used misleading bugle calls to confuse colonial troops. Bugles were also used in the First World War and later conflicts, and now play an important role in commemoration of war during the Last Post ceremony.

Piano – domesticity. For Pākehā, the importation (and, later, the domestic production) of pianos helped to create a sense of home. A piano in the home was both an important part of the décor and a focus for entertainment, with family and friends gathering around the piano to sing and dance. For women, playing the piano could sometimes be a respite (however brief) from household chores. There was a class dimension to all of this, of course – not everyone could afford a piano – and in time the more affordable, but arguably less participatory, radio took the place of the piano in living rooms.

Drum – diversity. Drums are often associated with uniformity – keeping people in time and in step. Yet they can also represent New Zealand’s diversity of cultures and beliefs. Traditionally, Māori had a range of rhythmic instruments, but unlike their Polynesian cousins they did not use drums – their closest equivalent was the pahū, a wooden gong. During the colonial period, drums were part of the equipment of war, but were also used by Māori who were dedicated to peace. Drums are an important part of New Zealand’s diverse marching and parading traditions, whether those parades are political, religious, military or carnivalesque in nature. More recently, migration and cultural exchange have brought a much wider range of drums and drumming traditions to New Zealand, including those of the Pacific, Africa and Asia.

Guitar – fun. As in much of the rest of the world, guitars are central to popular music of all sorts in New Zealand, including folk, country and blues, pop and contemporary Māori music. Guitars also give New Zealand popular music some of its distinctive inflections, from the classic ‘jinka jink’ Māori strum to the jangling or droning guitars of the Dunedin sound and the Pacific flavour of New Zealand reggae (heavier on the guitar and lighter on the bass than the Jamaican original). Above all, the guitar has become New Zealand’s good-time, party instrument. Nothing symbolises this better than the enduring popularity in New Zealand of a relatively obscure Engelbert Humperdinck B-side, ‘Ten guitars’. The song has become a cultural reference point for everyone from bored troops in Vietnam to sculptors. So, all together now: ‘I have a band of men and all they do is play for me…’

Wild flowers from Palestine

In response to my earlier blog about a First World War souvenir book of pressed flowers from the Holy Land, Alison Parr, our wonderful oral historian at Manatū Taonga the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, brought in a similar book, Wild flowers from Palestine, which she had inherited from her mother. Her mother had nursed in Egypt during the 1940s and Alison thought that perhaps it dated from that time.

Book cover

Book cover

Interestingly it turns out that this book dates from the late nineteenth century, and was compiled by a Reverend Harvey B. Greene. He gives a lovely description at the beginning, explaining how he collected the flowers over three seasons, assisted by a large number of the local people and ‘a most faithful dragoman’. (I had to look up dragoman, as to my eyes it looks too much like dragon and I had images of a Victorian reverend accompanied by a large fire-breathing creature. Too much Harry Potter, I think. In case, like me, you didn’t know, dragoman actually refers to an interpreter or guide in a country speaking Arabic, Turkish or Persian).

Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon

One of Greene’s aims seems to have been to try and find the flowers referred to in the Bible, and each dried flower is matched with a Biblical quote or a snippet of poetry. In the case of the Rose of Sharon (’I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys’) Greene refers to the English translations of the Bible, which note that ‘rose’ refers to an autumn crocus- and it is a crocus that he has chosen to include here. He names it as Crocus gaillardotii, today known more commonly as Crocus aleppicus.

Greene himself was American, born in 1864, and he graduated from Yale Divinity School in 1891. After serving for a few years as a congregational minister, he left the church and established a florist business in Lowell, Massachusetts. He first went to Palestine in 1895 and this book was first published that year, with subsequent editions in 1896 and this one in 1899 (I think. To be honest trying to work out the editions of this book is like swimming in treacle). Greene also compiled Pressed flowers of the Holy Land, which is very similar in content and feel.

Madonna flower

Madonna flower

Various interpretations I’ve read link these books with the increasing American interest in Palestine during the nineteenth century; with the wider Victorian genre of printed books with natural history specimens; and with a vogue for souvenir albums of pressed flowers. Certainly Greene and his books fit into all of these interpretations, even the last. He also produced a couple of floral souvenirs from American wildflowers.

Unfortunately Alison wasn’t able to ask her mother about the book, so we will probably never know how a book containing wild flowers from Palestine, collected by an American, and published in both the United States and Britain, ended up in New Zealand. But it’s a fascinating object and story all the same.

Small but perfectly formed

Reed's Lilliput books and a 20 cent coin

What is it about unusually small things that make them inherently attractive and collectable? I have in my possession three diminutive books and their novelty size is the only real reason I hold on to them.

In the 1960s and 1970s, New Zealand publishing house A.H. & A.W. Reed produced a series of tiny books measuring 35 by 50 millimetres. The series included a Māori-English dictionary, a book of Māori place names and another of Māori proverbs, all of which I own. Amazingly, they contain between 500 and 600 pages within their bright vinyl covers.

Quaintly branded ‘Lilliput’ after the island inhabited by miniature humans in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s travels (1726), the wee volumes were published with tourists in mind. They were very popular – according to Gavin McLean’s book Whare raupo: the Reed Books story, the Lilliput Maori dictionary sold 61,200 copies in the 1970s. Despite this, they became too expensive to produce and Reed decided to stop publishing them in 1977.

I wonder how many buyers actually read these books. And how reliable is the information they contain? Reed worked with Māori scholars and leaders when publishing their extensive catalogue of Māori books and while the company’s approach would probably not stand up today (owner Clif Reed, whose knowledge of te reo Māori was sparse, wrote all three of my books) by the standards of the time they were pretty consultative. I’d love someone with the requisite expertise to put these books to the test.

Te Wiki o te Reo Māori

Mahitaone Kōhanga Reo i te tau 1984 – Masterton Kōhanga Reo, 1984 (pic: Wairarapa Archive)

Mahitaone Kōhanga Reo i te tau 1984 – Masterton Kōhanga Reo, 1984 (pic: Wairarapa Archive)

Ko Te Wiki o te Reo Māori tēnei. Ko whāngaihia te reo Māori ki ngā mātua te kaupapa, arā, ka manaakitia e tātau ngā mātua ki te ako, ki te kōrero tā tātau reo, kia whāngaihia te reo e rātau ki ā tātau tamariki.

I te tau nei he āhua orite te mahi mo tātau.  Ia wiki, ia wiki ka whakawhiwhia e Te Taura Whiri tētahi kupu me tētahi rerenga kōrero. Ko e te tau te kupu o tēnei wiki, ko haramai, e te tau te rerenga kōrero.

This week is Māori Language Week. The theme of the week is fostering the Māori language in parents – if we support parents to learn and speak te reo, they can foster and teach the language to our children.

This year Te Taura Whiri have used the same idea as last year – one word a week, extended to include a short sentence or saying. This week’s word is ‘e te tau’ (darling), and the sentence is ‘Haramai, e te tau’ (come here, my darling).

Anei ētahi atu kia whāngaihia tō reo.

To help foster your language, here are a few more examples.

Tō ātaahua hoki!             You’re so beautiful.

Kei te mamae tō puku?    Is your tummy sore?

Tō kakara hoki!               You smell lovely.

Kei hea tō koti?               Where is your coat?

Māku koe e āwhina.         I will help you.

Ka nui tēnā.                    That’s enough.

Ko te reo kia rere, ko te reo kia tika, ko te reo kia Māori

Karawhiua!