Three of New Zealand’s most precious constitutional documents were moved to the National Library under strict security last Saturday morning, and nine-year-old Edie Apperley was there to witness the event. She writes of her experience, and why the documents have special meaning in her family.
We got up at 2:30 in the morning and saw the documents coming out of the building into a van in a procession and we followed it to its new place in the National Library. It was really slow! There was a warrior that led the procession.
One document was the Treaty of Waitangi, one was the Declaration of Independence and one was the Women’s Suffrage Petition. There were loads of chairs with a big central aisle and the documents were down the end covered with cloaks. Our priests did readings and prayers and we sung waiata then there were LOTS of speeches and I fell asleep.
The document I know most about was the Suffrage Petition. Thousands of women in New Zealand signed it because they wanted women to have the vote. Women were considered second-best and lots of women (and men) thought this wasn’t fair. It would have been weird to live in that kind of society. I wouldn’t like it because women pretty much had to stay at home and didn’t have jobs.
In my pocket I took with me a tiny prayer book that was owned by my great-great-great grandmother Hannah. She lived in Whanganui and signed the suffrage petition when she was 41. When she signed the petition she had three sons and three daughters. Maybe she wanted them to have an equal experience.
I think it’s cool to have an ancestor who signed the petition. I would have signed it if I was her.
The event marked another milestone in the establishment of He Tohu, a new multimedia exhibition designed to preserve the documents, improve access to them and enhance learning opportunities for New Zealanders. Te Haahi Mihinare / the Anglican Church was well-represented, with attendees including Archbishop Philip, Archdeacon Don Rangi (for Tikanga Māori), Rev Stephen King, Bishop-elect Rev Canon Dr Eleanor Sanderson and Rev Kay Webster. Bishop-elect Eleanor had a special role to play in the event, praying a collect in honour of the Women’s Suffrage Petition.