Connection to suffragette for Ynys Fraser
A 101-year-old Rotorua woman has helped launch a book about her grandmother, a suffragette 125 years ago, who helped New Zealand women become the first in the world to vote.
Eliza Wallis (nee Hart) was part of the “monster petition” of 32,000 signatures presented to Parliament in 1893, prompting the passing of the women’s franchise law. She was one of the founding members of the National Council of Women in 1896 and a friend of Kate Sheppard, the council’s first president.
Last Saturday, Wallis’ granddaughter Ynys Fraser QSM was the guest of honour at Debbie Mccauley’s launch of the bilingual children’s book Eliza and the White Camellia: A Story of Suffrage in New Zealand at Tauranga City Library.
Mccauley, an award-winning author, is also one of Wallis’ descendants.
The suffragette was her fourth great aunt.
Mccauley’s book covers major events in Wallis’ life from her birth in 1846, including poverty, emigration, elections, illegitimate children, women and the vote, the trial of Minnie Dean and the formation of the National Council of Women, concluding the month following the start of World War I.
Ynys Fraser’s father Wilfred Stanley Wallis OBE was the youngest of Eliza Wallis and her husband John’s 12 children. Fraser has spent 99 of her 101 years in the Rotorua area.
She said she was “very proud” of her family heritage.
“Throughout the generations, in various ways, all of them are forward thinking.”
Eliza Wallis died before Ynys was born, and Fraser didn’t realise how important her grandmother’s trailblazing was until her late teens.
“I became interested in politics myself. When you’re young you join this union and that union and marches . . . I was always marching for something. The League of Nations, or some of the other overseas organisations for peace. “
Fraser’s father motivated his children to stand up for social justice, the way Eliza had.
“We were all interested in what was going in, affairs both in New Zealand and the wider world.”
Debbie Mccauley has also followed in Eliza’s footsteps. She won a Women’s Suffrage Centennial Year Scholarship in 1993 and is on the Suffrage 125 Tauranga committee.
“Women’s history is often more difficult to uncover but I’ve always been fascinated by my suffrage connection.” launch.
Ynys Fraser, 101, with her cup of tea and copy of the book.
Debbie Mccauley and Ynys Fraser, 101, at Eliza and the White Camellia book