Saturday, 23 February 2008

bye margaret

a great woman has announced today that she won't be standing at the next election. i bet this woman won't make a lot of noise, she will retire quietly and efficiently, as she does most things. that can be evidenced by her understated press release.

i've been a great fan of margaret wilson, ever since she was dean of the law school at waikato university. she was appointed to build the law school from scratch, only to find the newly elected national government pulled $10million of government funding before the school was even established. but margaret persevered, and built a school that is highly reputed with its own distinct flavour.

as an MP, pretty much the first thing she did was to bring in the employment relations act. i found this old archive page from her early days as a minister. for a list of her current and former roles, see here. and of course you can find more about her role as speaker here.

she was in the vanguard of the fight for women's political involvement, activism and leadership back in the 70's and 80's; and she lead by example. she was a key advocate for women's rights, and has been a force that has shaped the country in positive ways. she fought for economic independence for women, for opportunities to obtain employment and for equal pay. she advocated policies to support women in the workforce, such as parental leave, affirmative action, reform of rape laws and much more. i have a copy of a paper she wrote in 1983 about feminism, in which she writes:

Feminism is concerned with women obtaining choice, which involves the ability to make decisions about their lives.... Feminism is not necessarily about destroying marriage and the family. It is about giving women greater control and independence so therefore it must be about changing those institutions.... It is true that if women are to obtain control over their lives, this will necessitate a revolution not only in attitude, but in the way in which society is to be organised.

we've come pretty far in that revolution, even though there is still a long way to go. we haven't yet reached the stage where "the traditional domestic role of women is shared equally", and i wrote about the wage gap yesterday. but for all that, the efforts of women like margaret have made all our lives so much better.

i remember when i first met margaret, in christchurch, november 2003. i've met her several times since, and found her to be inspiring, ethical and tough. last week in katherine rich, we mourned what might have been. in margaret, we have a full and successful career that deserves to be celebrated. and i'm sure it's not over yet. no matter where she goes next, the one thing i'm sure of is that she will continue to make an impact.

bye margaret. we'll miss you in parliament, but hope to see you doing well in your next role.

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