I’m talking about Frances Walsh. The so-called “hobbit-hating woman”, who dared to stand up for her members in MEAA when Mr Warner Bros and his hired guns came to town last year to attack New Zealand’s sovereignty and labour laws, in the name of “jobs”. Our feeble government wooed Warner Bros, along with Peter Jackson and Co with big limos and flash hospitality and then did the ultimate sell-out by amending labour laws to ensure film and video production workers don’t have the right to challenge their status as employees under our labour law.
That woman, who along with Helen Kelly, CTU President, became the target of the worst case of New Zealand union-phobia we’ve seen in a decade. That woman, who has a distinguished career as a journalist, and who has now published a quite wonderful book, called “Inside Stories” – a history of the New Zealand Housewife 1890 – 1975.
Walsh’s book takes a look at the artistic, cultural and historical role of women in New Zealand. It’s a reminder of the stereotypes of women I grew up with and fought against, and the struggle of the right to vote in the late 1890′s through to 1975, when modern feminism asserted the right to sexual and reproductive freedom.
It’s an artistic romp through women’s magazines and their reflection on a women’s place and a political commentary on how far women in New Zealand have come – and have yet to go.
The book is beautifully illustrated with cartoons, advertisements, colours and wallpapers of the eras. I bought it willingly, because I think it’s one not just to read, but to keep. But I also bought it in honour of Frances’ role as a trade unionist – sticking up for a whole bunch of workers, who may seem by many to be privileged because they work in an industry that is on the surface glamorous and adventurous, but has underneath, a whole lot of problems and issue. The National Government turned their back on them last year when they sidled up to Warner Bros and did the indecent thing, selling out a whole category of workers and giving a message that this is in store for any other group who dare stand up for their rights.
Well done Frances. And all women like her.