Celebrating iconic women of Ōamaru

3.82 billion exist.
Today’s the day to mark their achievements.
It’s International Women’s Day.

We’re celebrating by focusing on three unstoppable women who have called Ōamaru home. These women who had struggles (mental health, disabilities, and yes, the patriarchy) but nevertheless they persisted to make a profound difference to their community, New Zealand, and the world.

Janet Frame

A Queen of words. Born in Dunedin, Janet’s early childhood was spent moving from one small town to another until the family settled in Ōamaru. Which made an impact. The town is recognisable as Waimaru in her debut novel Owls Do Cry (as she describes the clock tower, you’ll find yourself nodding along).

Janet spent years in psychiatric hospitals and yet so determined to put pen to paper she wrote poetry, short stories, novels, and essays—racking up an impressive collection of awards, two honorary doctorates, and an appointment to the Order of New Zealand, New Zealand’s highest civil honour.

To learn more about Janet and her legacy pay a visit to the Janet Frame House in Ōamaru, open 2-4pm daily between the 1st November and the 30th April.

Patricia ‘Trish’ Hill

One of New Zealand’s most successful Paralympians. As a young girl Trish met Eve Rimmer, a Para athlete of international renown. Trying on one of Eve’s medals sparked a fire of determination that set her on her course.

Trish was selected to three consecutive Paralympic Games (Arnheim 1980, New York & Stoke Mandeville 1984, Seoul 1988) where she won eight medals including two gold. Her most successful event was the slalom, a technical ski run that combines speed and agility.

In 1988, Trish became the first woman in New Zealand to complete a marathon in a wheelchair.

Elizabeth Forrester

A community leader. You might wonder about the familiarity of her last name, and yes, her father-in-law Thomas was the architect behind many of Ōamaru’s Victorian buildings—but we’re not going to allow Elizabeth to join the ranks of the many women whose public presence is defined by their relationship to a powerful man.

Elizabeth earned both a Master of Arts and a Bachelor of Science. She then held employment as a teacher and principal during a time when young women were expected to hold babies not multiple degrees.

Elizabeth moved with her husband to Ōamaru where she became the Honorary Secretary of the Oamaru branch of the Red Cross during World War I. Under her guidance, the branch fundraised £10,000, which is equal to 1.1 million dollars in today’s world. For her herculean efforts, Elizabeth was made a member of the British Empire (MBE).

In honour of Elizabeth, pay a visit to the Waitaki Museum & Archive in Ōamaru, where her wedding dress is on display.

Have a happy International Women’s Day and shout out to all those special women in your lives.

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