Oak tree marks suf­frage event

Stratford Press - - News -

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.

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