Oak tree marks suffrage event
by ALICE COWDREY
An acorn planted by Vera Putt 99 years ago has grown into a towering oak tree on the ground of St Paul’s Church in O¯ kato.
More than 40 people gathered under the majestic tree last Wednesday to mark 125 years of women’s suffrage and remember the district’s pioneering women — including Vera who was O¯ kato’s first World War I bride.
Vera’s son Merv Putt, 91, attended, as well as her granddaughter Wendy Clement, with the pair paying homage to Vera, a mother of four.
“Seeing the tree is very very special — it’s my link to my grandmother.
“Nana was a lovely, dear old lady. I loved her dearly — she was a real treasure,” says Wendy.
Vera met Clyde Putt at the end of the war and married in London before arriving in New Zealand on board the HM Troopship Kigoma in 1919 at the age of 19.
Wendy says she enjoys having the family connection and will often collect sticks from under the tree to take home and use as kindling.
Organiser of the event, Lesley Dowding, says it was important to mark the occasion through remembering how much things have changed.
“I think it’s a significant part of history, particularly for women and women in small rural communities. Some of them would have gone a long way on horseback to sign the petition.”
The group had a look throughout St Paul’s Church before making their way to the Coastal Taranaki School library where historical displays told the stories of local families and various items were on display to look at.
Lesley Dowding organised an event in Okato ¯ to celebrate 125 years of women’s suffrage.
Vera and Clyde Putt pictured with their family in 1930.
Wendy Clement and Linda Gray cut a cake to celebrate 125 years of women’s suffrage.