For women who signed the petition and the women who step forward

 

 

 

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Frida Kahlo by my daughter, Estelle Hight

 

125 years ago today many but not all New Zealand women got the vote.

I have waited until today to let this sink in and react

I am sitting here at my kitchen table with the grey clouds and a bite

in the air thinking of our early women poets who held hands with

the English suffragettes and risked their words to shape a better

future for all women by writing and speaking out and imagining

an equal life for women without violence and without poverty

and without being spoken over or patronised or ignored

on the grounds women were not men’s equal. I am thinking

this and the way I have a support crew of women who have held

my hand over the past year through difficulty and celebration

and I am wondering how we are risking words to shape

a better future for all women by writing and speaking out

and imagining lives without violence or poverty or denigration

or erasure or inequity and I am thinking of Selina Tusitala Marsh

and Tusiata Avia who have held my hand in this tough year

and who stand tall and proud for all women but especially

Pasifika women and speak out about abuse be it physical

or emotional and who then stand even taller and show

how words can sing and who get young Pasifika

women singing and I can feel the chain of hands stretching

back through a line of women writing to Blanche Baughan

and Jessie Mackay and I can feel the hand of Airini Beautrais

who is brave in her writing and Dinah Hawken who showed

me the tug of war between men and women and the way they

let the rope go and the way Fiona Farrell gave voice to her

broken city and we could hear the small stories of living

and here I am taking stock and giving thanks to the women

who came before me and giving thanks for my vote

and my freedom to choose education and motherhood

but thinking then of my notfreedom within medical systems

that know best and education systems that let children down

and clamp the Arts and the way even now our voices might

be trampled upon when we don’t sing in harmony. I am thinking

we bake bread and we buy bread and we get married and we don’t get married

and we live with women and we live with men and we hang out washing

and soothe the troubled child and we change gender and we go to work

and fold the clothes and get bruised and make the money stretch and make dreams

and try to keep warm and run away and chop the wood and get degrees

and we hold hands and we keep holding hands because there is strength in difference.

This year has almost wiped me out or so it feels but to sit here at the kitchen table and

reflect back on those brave early women who never gave up and who embraced shrill

and loud and forceful puts me back with the wind blowing through the manuka

back to that moment when I wrote a poem for Neve and her parents

and the world felt full of hope because kindness is just as important as strength.

 

 

Written in one breath by Paula Green, 19th September 2018, Bethells Valley, Waitakere

 

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One thought on “For women who signed the petition and the women who step forward

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