Dr Marilyn Waring delivered the Dame Dorothy Fraser lecture last night, as Labour MP Jacinda Ardern looks on. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
When Marilyn Waring entered Parliament in 1975 she was just
one of four female MPs, there was an all-male cabinet of 19,
all Government department heads were men and all the
country's law courts were presided over by men.
''I was 23 years old and I needed to know the names of other
women who were breaking boundaries.''
One of those names was Dorothy Fraser, the then chairwoman of
the Otago Hospital Board.
Last night, Dr Waring was the guest speaker at the annual
Dame Dorothy Fraser Lecture, where she spoke before several
hundred people at the Kings and Queens Performing Arts
While ill health prevented Dame Dorothy from attending the
lecture, she received a visit from Dr Waring and was also
contacted by former prime minister Helen Clark, who gave the
inaugural 2012 lecture.
The lecture series was hosted by the Dunedin South Labour
Dr Waring was given a warm introduction by Labour MPs Clare
Curran and Jacinda Ardern, the latter speaking affectionately
of receiving a call from Dr Waring as part of a school
A National MP in the Muldoon government from 1975 to 1984, Dr
Waring's threat of voting for the opposition's nuclear-free
legislation contributed to the prime minister calling the
1984 snap election, which National lost.
She recalled one time in Parliament being told by a junior
whip, ''You're so bitter.''
''I don't think I'm bitter,'' she replied, '' I think I am
angry all the time.''
Dr Waring said in 2014 she was often told young women were
not interested in feminism, while men were opposed to
''But my riposte is when men cry in agony in childbirth I
will consider that.''
She spoke on a range of issues, often comparing what she
faced in 1975 with how things have or have not changed nearly
four decades later.
Those issues included abortion laws, the lack of resourcing
for the Ministry of Women's Affairs, ACC and unpaid work, and
domestic violence reporting.
''We do not have equality in most places in New Zealand but
we frequently frame difference as deficit.''
In a question and answer session Dr Waring, who is penning
her biography, encouraged women not to feel disempowered as
''that is the first moment of defeat''.