Early Christchurch women, breaking the rules: the exhibition.

The ideal Victorian woman

In Victorian society, a woman was to be meek, mild, virtuous and peaceful (Whiteside 2007). She was expected to marry and have children. She would stay at home, looking after her children and her husband and keeping the house perfectly. Public affairs were men’s matters, although a woman might engage in charitable or other social works, but nothing that could in any way be construed as ‘masculine’. She was selfless – everyone else always came first. She certainly wasn’t involved in politics, and nor did she run a business. At least, that was the theory!

Left: M Heslop & Co (Christchurch) fl 1870s: Portrait of unidentified man, woman and child. Ref: PA2-2063. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23056667. Right: well, it would be an alternative middle class family! Image: Observer 14/11/1903.

In fact, this standard was mostly applied to middle class women, and it seems to have been much less unusual for working class women to, well, work. But there were middle class women who broke these ‘rules’ of Victorian society too, in a range of ways. Discovering the lives of a number of these women in 19th century Christchurch – and our fascination with their ‘hidden’ lives – has led us to curate an exhibition: Women breaking the rules. You can see the physical display at Rewind at Ferrymead Heritage Park on Sunday 14 October, and also follow these women’s stories online via our Instagram exhibition @womenbreakingtherules.

Designed by A. Gibson.

But regardless of class, women were always defined in relation to the men in their life, whether father, brother or husband. So, being a spinster could be difficult and challenging. Much as we might not like it in this day in age, men provided often critical financial security for the women in their lives, particularly in a world where there was no pension or unemployment benefit, let alone a domestic purposes benefit. In fact, there was no state support of any kind in New Zealand until the end of the 19th century, and the poor were reliant on charities for support.

Unlike spinsters, widows seem to have had far more freedom and to have been more ‘respectable’ than unmarried women. While their situation might have been financially difficult, the range of jobs society approved of them taking on was broader than the range available for single women. And widows – as in some of the stories here – often ended up running their husband’s businesses, meaning they took on a variety of professions (Bishop 2012).

Women and work

Yes, women did work in the Victorian era! And not just as domestic servants – although this was far and way the most common occupation for women. In fact, some women ran businesses of their own. The jobs that women took on, though, and even many of the businesses they ran, tended to involve caring, or to be domestic in character. Jobs like teaching or nursing were both acceptable for middle class women (Bishop 2012).

Working class women could take on quite a range of work: dressmaker, needlework, hotelkeeping, storekeeping, confectionary, haberdashery, drapery and so on. Women could also earn money by taking in boarders, doing laundry or by looking after other women’s children. And let’s not ignore that they could be prostitutes. These were all ways of earning money that might fly under the radar and not be recorded officially (Bishop 2012).

Just relaxing under a tree, along with other women, working in the seaside or the countryside, riding a horse… working women and classy ones, all sort of women depicted through the artefacts! Image: J. Garland, C. Watson and M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Telling women’s stories

As regular readers of the blog will know, researching the lives of most people who lived in 19th century New Zealand is tricky – official records can be patchy or may not even exist (Minchinton 2017). People only turned up in the newspapers if they were famous, got in trouble or were advertising for servants, leasing or selling properties. Unless someone has a really unusual name, you often can’t be certain you’re researching the right person.

Mary Portelli, the antithesis of the Victorian ideal, a woman in endless trouble! Images. Right: Star 29/05/1895: 3. Left: Southland Times 20/09/1906: 2.

Studying women’s lives is even harder. For one thing, they changed their surname when they married. Then, they were often referred to only as Mrs…, without their first name, or including their husband’s name instead – for example, Mrs L. J. Smith. Women who ran businesses often traded under their husband’s name, or didn’t advertise at all (Bishop 2012). And, in general, women’s activities meant they didn’t end up in the newspaper.

The branded china L. J. Smith – and presumably Elizabeth, L. J. Smith’s wife – used at events he organised as caterer. Image: C. Dickson.

Despite these difficulties, archaeology and history reveal the lives of six Christchurch women who, in one way or another, broke the rules of late 19th and early 20th century society: Fanny Cole, prohibitionist; Elizabeth Robinson, chemist; Sarah Gault, dressmaker; Elizabeth Smith, caterer; Caroline Rantin, timber and coal merchant; and Mary Portelli, woman in trouble.

There are no Māori women in this exhibition, unfortunately, because we’ve not found any record of Māori women living in 19th century Christchurch. This isn’t to say that they weren’t, just that we’ve not found them yet. If you want to learn more, we highly recommend checking out the book He Reo Wāhine: Māori Women’s Voices from the Nineteenth Century.

Why are these women important?

These six women were not the only exceptional ones who broke the rules. It turns out that there were many more women pushing the boundaries of Victorian society than we initially expected. The six women we’ve featured in this exhibition serve to highlight the lives and occupations of all these women, along with their concerns and daily battles and how they struggled against what was accepted and respectable (Whiteside 2007), whilst working within the confines of the ideals of that time. But slowly, slowly, pushing these boundaries would come to change society as a whole. So, let’s look at the archaeology and the historical record and bring women into the picture!

This exhibition is a joint production between Underground Overground Archaeology and the Christchurch Archaeology Project.

Katharine Watson and Maria Lillo Bernabeu

References 

Bishop, Catherine, 2012. “Commerce Was a Woman: Women in Business in Colonial Sydney and Wellington.” PhD thesis, Australian National University.

Minchinton, Barbara, 2017. “’Prostitutes’ and ‘lodgers’ in Little Lon: construction a list of occupiers in nineteenth-century Melbourne”. Australasian Historical Archaeology, 35, pp. 64-70.

Whiteside, Heidi, 2017. “’We Shall Be Respectable’: Women and Representations of Respectability in Lyttelton 1851-1893”. MA thesis, University of Canterbury.

A tea cup as a symbol of political change

As a 90s baby millennial, Helen Clark was Prime Minister from the time I started primary school to the time I started high school. I grew up in a world where in the eyes of a child there was never any doubt that a woman could be Prime Minister, and that if I wanted to be Prime Minister when I grew up then I could be. For me, being a girl was never a limitation. I’m lucky that I was born in the 1990s. If I had been born in the 1890s, my opportunities, and likely my own beliefs about what I was capable of, would have been far more limited.

Nineteenth century sentiments surrounding the role of women in society seems simply outlandish today. Image: Wright 1902.

On this day, 125 years ago, the Electoral Act 1893 was passed giving all women in New Zealand the right to vote. The success of the suffragettes was only the start of gaining equal political rights for women. It took until 1933 for the first woman to be elected as a Member of Parliament, until 1941 for women to have the right to sit on the Legislative Council and until 1997 for there to be a female Prime Minister (Ministry for Culture and Heritage 2018). Today 38 percent of our Members of Parliament are women, the highest number ever elected.

The 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage is an important marker in the campaign for women’s rights. It gives us an opportunity to look back and reflect on how far we have come as a society, but also to remember the women who campaigned for suffrage. One such woman was Ada Wells. Ada Wells was a prominent Christchurch suffragette, the first secretary of the National Council of Women of New Zealand, the co-founder of the Canterbury Women’s Institute and the first woman to be elected to the Christchurch City Council (Fogarty 1993). To put it simply, she was a bit of a bad-ass. Ada came to our attention as we recently excavated the property she was living at during the 1890s suffrage campaign. In celebration of the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage, we are dedicating this blog post to Ada Wells and will be discussing her life along with what we found of her in the archaeological record.

Ada was born as Ada Pike on the 29th of April 1863, in Shepherd’s Green, Oxfordshire, England (Fogarty 1993). When she was ten years old she travelled on Merope with her parents, three sisters and one brother, arriving in Lyttelton on the 31st October 1873. She attended Avonside School for two years before switching to Christchurch West School where she went on to work as a pupil-teacher between the ages of 14 and 18. Ada was naturally intelligent and had a great interest in languages and classics. In 1881 she was awarded a university junior scholarship and went on to complete the first stage of her BA at Canterbury College. From there she was employed briefly as an assistant teacher at Christchurch Girls High School (Fogarty 1993).

Photograph of Ada Wells taken circa 1910 by an unidentified photographer. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library .

When she was 20 years old Ada married organist Harry Wells. They went on to have three daughters and one son. Despite being a prominent Christchurch musician, Harry was a drunkard with a volatile temper and was unable to hold down a steady job (Fogarty 1993). Harry’s drinking meant Ada had to support the family, taking on teaching positions and accepting private patients for massage and healing. In the late 1880s Ada became involved with the suffragette movement. She had always held strong beliefs on women’s rights and the campaign allowed her to put those beliefs into action. Her organisational talents and passion for the cause meant she played a critical role in the success of the movement (Fogarty 1993).

Ada Wells’ signature on the 1893 Suffrage Petition.

For Ada, the 1893 suffrage campaign was only the start of a long life of campaigning. The year prior to women winning the vote she had founded the Canterbury Women’s Institute, of which she was president for many years. She became the first national secretary of the National Council of Women of New Zealand in 1896, and in 1899 was elected to the Ashburton and North Canterbury United Charitable Aid Board (Fogarty 1993). She argued in favour of free kindergartens, universal access to secondary education, the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act 1869, as well as the reform of local government, the charitable aid system and prisons. In 1917 she became the first woman to be elected to the Christchurch City Council (Fogarty 1993).

National Council of Woman, Christchurch, 1896. Ada is the woman seated on the floor on the left. Image: Alexander Turnbull Library.

Ada passed away in 1933, ending a life time of fighting for women’s rights. Her role in the success of suffragette movement cannot be over-stated. Philippa Fogarty (1993) says it best when she writes, “She played a pivotal role in the advancement of women and was a tireless campaigner in the fight for women’s equality and economic independence…Wells’s contribution to Christchurch, especially in the interests of women and children, was invaluable and sadly is often overlooked.”

Between 1892 and 1898, Ada and Harry Wells were living at a property on Mays Road. During our excavations at the property we uncovered three features containing artefacts which were likely deposited by the family. These features were all rubbish deposits. The assemblage was notable in that it was dominated by ceramic artefacts, many of which could be refitted.

Broseley patterned tea ware vessels. Image: C. Watson.

Asiatic Pheasants patterned table wares and serving wares. Image: C. Watson.

Top Row: Pompadour patterned plate, Bo’ness Daisy Chain patterned side plate. Bottom row: Madras patterned plate, European porcelain can, Frightened Ducklings patterned pitcher (Frightened Ducklings is an excellent pattern choice as who wouldn’t want to look at baby ducklings being attacked by giant flying insects while eating dinner). Image: C. Watson.

These ceramic artefacts were vessels connected to taking tea or eating food, with many of the tea serving vessels decorating in the Broseley pattern, and many of the dining vessels decorated in the Asiatic Pheasants and Pompadour patterns. This suggests to us that the Wells family, presumably Ada specifically, were using sets of vessels rather than mismatched pieces when serving tea or food. Having ceramic sets in fashionable patterns was just one of the many components of keeping a good house in Victorian era New Zealand. Ada was no doubt often entertaining guests at her house as part of her campaigning efforts, and likely put in special effort to portray the image she kept a good house so as not to let her critics argue that her life in politics was at the detriment of her role as a mother and wife. Whilst we can’t know for sure, the completeness of many of the vessels suggests they were thrown away intact. The 1890s was a particularly successful period for Ada, and it may be that during this time she purchased new sets, throwing away the older ones.

Harry Wells’ drinking was likely a strong motivator for Ada in her political work. Women in the nineteenth century were tied to their husbands, even if their husbands were abusive. Domestic abuse was a strong motivator for women to join reform movements, with many involved in both the temperance movement and the suffragette movement. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union united the causes and many suffragettes were also supporters of temperance. We found alcohol bottles in the Wells’ assemblage, suggesting that despite Ada’s efforts politically, Harry probably still consumed alcohol at home. Interestingly though, these bottles were all smaller pint sizes. It is possible that Harry was purchasing alcohol in smaller bottles, which were easier to conceal, and was only consuming alcohol at home on the sly. Alternatively, the bottles may not have held alcohol at all, and could have been reused for a completely different substance as was sometimes done in nineteenth century bottle reuse.

Alcohol bottles found at Ada and Harry Wells’ property. Image: C. Watson.

Along with all her work politically, Ada was also a mother. Ada’s role as a mother was seen in the archaeology through the presence of children’s toys. The doll’s head we found at the property was unique in that it had an additional piece of ceramic inlaid inside the head to give the appearance of teeth. The detail of the teeth would indicate that it was probably a rather lovely doll with lots of unique features. However, in its current state, with the missing eyes and sharp pointed teeth, it looks rather terrifying.

What was once likely someone’s treasured toy now resembles something out of a horror movie. Image: C. Watson.

Ada Well was a strong activist for women’s rights, and her work, along with the work of her fellow suffragettes, helped to shape society to how it is today. I think it can be quite easy to be complacent about how much society has changed in the past 125 years. So much of the Victorian material culture we deal with is instantly recognisable to us. We see artefacts like plates, bottles, tea cups, and instantly know what they are because they are objects we use every day. There is a danger to that instant recognition, as we associate the objects with how we would use them and in doing so can forget there would have been different uses for objects, and different social customs surrounding that use. It also easy to forget that people had agency and were not passively constrained to their position in society. Ada Wells and her fellow suffragettes were active agents in changing the role of women in society, using and manipulating material culture in the process of doing so. Are Ada Wells’ teacups simply vessels used to serve tea in? Or, are they symbols of political change, sipped from during meetings discussing how to change the lives of New Zealand women for the better?

Suffrage 125 reminds us that nineteenth century New Zealand was a vastly different place to modern New Zealand. The work of suffragettes such as Ada Wells helped to change the role of women in society, a role which is still changing and being re-defined today.

Clara Watson

References

Fogarty, P. 1993. ‘Wells, Ada’ in Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara- the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Available: https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2w11/wells-ada (accessed 19 September 2018).

Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 2018. Women’s Suffrage Milestones. Available: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/womens-suffrage/suffrage-milestones (accessed 19 September 2018).

New Zealand. General Assembly Library. National Council of Women, Christchurch. Ref: 1/2-041798-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22694035.

Photograph of Ada Wells from Woman Today magazine. Ref: 1/2-C-016534-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22728937.

Wright, Henry Charles Clarke. 1902. Notice to epicene women. Electioneering women are requested not to call here. 12706-Alex Ferguson, Printer, Wellington. Available: http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=24361&l=en.

 

Sublime weed, Lady Nicotine… the smoking vice!

‘Tobacco divine, rare, which goes far beyond all their panaceas, potable gold, a remedy to diseases…But, as it is commonly abused by most men, who take it as tinkers do ale, it’s a plague, a mischief, a violent purge of goods, lands, health, hellish, devilish, and damned tobacco, the ruin and overthrow of body and soul’ (Burton, 1948: 577).

Tobacco is a plant native to America, originally used in religious and medicinal practices by Native Americans. When Christopher Columbus arrived in America in 1492, the locals gave him dried tobacco leaves and then…consumption of tobacco took off among Europeans (Dayton University 2017).

This amazing French moulded clay pipe shows a Native American figure crouching at the front of the bowl, with a smoking pipe in his hand and tobacco leaves decorating the bowl on either side. We don’t yet know who the figure is, but it is the coolest artefact I’ve ever seen so far and also, it fits perfectly with our topic today, doesn’t it? Image: J. Garland.

Tobacco was likely first dried or toasted and chewed, or powdered for inhalation through the nose in what is known as ‘snuffing’. More recently, men and women started using pipes and the predecessors to modern cigarettes to smoke tobacco as a daily narcotic.

A slightly more modern container for ‘dried tobacco’. The label on this tin, found underneath the floors of a farmhouse on the outskirts of Christchurch, indicates that it originally contained cut cake tobacco, possibly originating in Antwerp. Cut cake tobacco was advertised for sale in tins in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Mt Ida Chronicle 19/4/1888: 2): the most commonly referenced types appear to be Empire Cut Cake, from Dobie and Sons, and Four-Square Cut Cake (Auckland Star 29/6/1936: 14, Marlborough Express 8/8/1877: 3). Image: J. Garland.

The popularity of tobacco grew quickly in Europe due to its hypothetical curative properties, which were particularly encouraged by Jean Nicot, from whom the genus Nicotiana took the name (Rogers 2010). Over the years scientists began to investigate the chemicals in tobacco and came to understand the dangerous effects that smoking produces. As early as 1826, the pure form of nicotine was discovered and the conclusion drawn that it constituted a harmful poison (Rodgman and Perfetti 2013).

Left: Manawatu Times 18/04/1925: 3. Right top: Auckland Star 24/03/1931: 13. Right bottom: Northern Advocate 11/03/1932: 8.

While the English developed a predilection for the pipe, the Spanish preferred the cigar and The French took a liking to snuff. It was in Spain that the tobacco manufacturing industry produced the small and cheaper versions of the cigar, famously hand-rolled by women workers in Seville. That image captured the imaginations in France, and cigarritos became cigarettes, one of the most commonly used words in the world (Random History 2007-2017).

Snuff! Not just appreciated by the French, if this English bottle is anything to go by. Taddy & Co. snuff jar from London. Taddy and Co. were tobacconists and snuff merchants with a long history – this particular jar dates to their 19th century operations at 45 Minories, London. The company was established in 1740 in London as sellers of tobacco, snuff and tea (Matlach 2013). They became one of the most important tobacco companies in Britain and were well known for their cigarette cards showing famous actors, actresses, footballers or cricketers. The first of its kind that we’ve seen! Image: J. Garland.

‘Morris Cigarettes’ box. In 1847, the famous Philip Morris was established, selling hand rolled Turkish cigarettes. Cigarettes became popular around this time when soldiers brought them back to England from the Russian and Turkish soldiers. Philip Morris was a British tobacconist and cigarette importer, who first manufactured Morris cigarettes, known as ‘Philip Morris English ovals’, in 1854. The name was later used for ‘Philip Morris Inc. Ltd’, established in New York in 1902 (Wikipedia 2017), when he set up a New York headquarters to market its cigarettes, including a now famous Malboro brand. In 1924 Morris began to market its cigarettes to women and gained 38% of the market. ‘Morris Cigarettes’ were first advertised in New Zealand newspapers in 1910 (Temuka Leader 4/01/1910: 1). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Smoking for pleasure received its greatest endorsement from Sir Walter Raleigh in the 16th century (Latham 2017), and even today, smoking remains prevalent in many cultures, despite its increasing reputation as a bad habit.

A saucer, decorated with a Chinese scene in which a long pipe is smoked. How cool is that? CHANG is the pattern name. This Chinoiserie design featured two figures, dressed in oriental clothing, in a garden or house and the saucer. was made by Holland and Green, in production between 1853 and 1882 (Godden 1991: 331). Image: J. Garland.

Tobacco smoking arrived in New Zealand with the earliest European settlers and tobacco consumption increased quickly during the mid and late 19th century. It wasn’t just an elitist habit, but was also widely spread among the middle and lower classes, especially among working men. Tobacco was fairly accessible at all levels of society and, increasingly, the paraphernalia of smoking – such as clay tobacco pipes – were cheap and disposable.

One of our favourite artefact types, as you well know. In the second half of the 19th century the production of decorated clay pipes increased. These commemorated events, carried slogans and advertisements, animals, fruits or flowers, and they were categorised as fancy clays or fancies (Ayto 1994: 7). We’ve talked about them a few times in older posts either on the blog or Facebook because they are pretty, and we love them! A perfect example of these ‘fancies’ is this smoking pipe featuring the royal bust of Queen Victoria on one side and the words ROYAL JUBILEE PIPE on the other side. This pipe was made for commemorating 60 years of Victoria’s reign in 1897. Also, the name of DUNEDIN is impressed on the one side of the stem, while M[C]PHEE is impressed on the other, referring to George McPhee. He was a tobacco pipe maker in Glasgow from 1861 onwards with his wife, who was a tobacco pipe trimmer (White 2016: 16). George McPhee arrived in New Zealand in 1880. George’s son, John McPhee, started pipe making experiments with a concerted effort to re-launch the business in Dunedin around 1890 and he was making clay tobacco pipes until 1908 (White 2016: 27). The McPhees were at the front of a brand-new industry for New Zealand and they appeared to be the first New Zealand clay pipe makers (White 2016: 27-28). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

The stem of this pipe, collected from a Christchurch site, is longer than 120 mm, indicating that it belonged to a long pipe like a churchwarden. This type of pipe was easily broken, and it was said that Charles Dickens invented that name or at least he was the responsible for perpetuating the name (Ayto 1994: 6). Churchwarden pipes were mentioned in New Zealand newspapers from at least 1872 onwards (West Coast Times 16/10/1872). The stem had a W. SOUTHORN & CO / BROSELEY maker’s mark, referring to William Southorn, a tobacco pipe manufacturer based in Broseley, Shropshire, England. He established his pipeworks as early as 1823 and they were making tobacco pipes until the 1950s (Science Museum 2017). Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

It wasn’t until 1900 when cigarritos became the most common tobacco product on the market. Along with modern advertising, a key innovation took place at the end of the 19th century century: Virginian James Bonsack patented a machine in 1881 that produced 200 cigarettes per minute, as many in a day as forty human employees rolling by hand! Cigarette smoking increased during the World Wars, during which they were given free to soldiers. An easy way for the companies to create loyal customers! Evidence of this universally widespread habit is recorded archaeologically – we’ve found a variety of American and British brands under the floors of Christchurch houses.

W.D. and H.O. Wills maker’s mark on the top of the lid. This company was founded in 1786 and went by various names before 1830 when it became W.D. and H.O. Wills. Tobaccos and cigarettes made by W.D. and H.O. Wills were very popular with New Zealand smokers. The company began manufacturing tobacco products in New Zealand in 1919 at its factory in Petone, Wellington (British American Tobacco New Zealand 2017). Tobacco was processed and sold under several brand names, some of which were still used by Imperial Tobacco until the second half of the 20th century. The company pioneered the use of cigarette cards within their packaging. Image: C. Dickson.

Top: Cardboard cigarette boxes. CHESS SPECIALLY SELECTED VIRGINIA LEAF/ HIGNETT Bros & Co / ENGLAND CIGARETTES. Bottom: THE ‘GREYS’ SILK CUT VIRGINIA TOBACCO. This second one was reused as a shopping list, headed with the words: ‘Supply Stores’. A range of items can be read: ‘butter, sugar, eggs, […], biscuits, soda, […], cornflour, cookies, jellies, […] fruit, […], dried fruit. What a splendid example of reusing and recycling! Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Top and bottom view of a matchbox. Matchboxes are a relatively uncommon find on Christchurch archaeological sites. They are made of tin, which often remained heavily rusted but still identifiable by the shape. It is believed that Richard Bell from Wandsworth, London, was the earliest exclusive manufacturer of matches (as we know them now), from 1832 onwards (Anson, 1983). Unluckily, this example lacks embossing and we don’t have any information about manufacturer and/or brand, which is a shame. It is a good one though! Image: M. Lillo Bernabeu.

Luckily, we also have a tiny piece of an embossed matchbox! Bell and Black were a match making partnership operating during the mid- 19th century, although exact dates are unclear. Richard Bell began a match business in London in the 1830s and was joined at some point by Black (Anson 1983). Bell and Black matchboxes have been found on sites throughout New Zealand and Australia dating to the mid-late 19th century and accounted for 13% of all matches imported into New Zealand between 1870-1894 (Tasker 1993). The New Zealand market was as good as gold for Bell and Black and in 1895, they decided to open a factory in Wellington. In 1910 the two-successful match producing factories in New Zealand became one: Bryant and May, Bell and Company (Tasker 1993). The new firm consolidated its position and still produces most of the matches used in New Zealand. Left: M. Lillo Bernabeu. Right: Grey River Argus 21/07/1894: 4.

Tobacco also played a significant role in the construction of identity and gender, the notions of masculinity and femininity from the 19th century onwards, both here in New Zealand and across the world. According to the principles of liberalism, men were all self-controlled and rational, while women were biologically incapable of both values (Hilton 2000). The image of respectable male smoker was constructed in the public sphere, into which women could not enter without putting their reputation into risk. And of course, a respectable female didn’t smoke.

How to resist to the charms of cigarettes? Advice for women! Due to their maternal role as the caretakers of children, they shouldn’t smoke? Fair enough, says Dr Roberston Wallace…Gender does matter, and smoking was supposed to be – and probably, actually was – a man thing . Press 27/05/1905: 9.

Observer 7/05/1898: 13. Mrs Cunnington was member of Women’s Social and Politic League, and highly influential in cultural and social life in Christchurch in the late 19th and early 20th century. Of course, you know what I’m thinking…she was colleague of another politically active woman: Fanny Cole. Instead of an image of the popular Sir Walter Raleigh encouraging the smokers, I chose Mrs Cunnington, because she was a woman also endorsing smoking as a good thing, at a time when smoking was a practice typically associated with men. We love (well, I love) transgressor women (in the positive meaning of the word): women who broke the established rules to achieve equality rights. And Mrs Cunnington was one of those, as was Mrs Cole, in their different ways.

As the Temperance Union brawled to reduce alcohol consumption, women also starred in the struggle against the vice of smoking. Observer 1/10/1901: 12.

The male smoker was not just a consumer, but instead a true friend and a passionate follower of the goddess nicotine. The pleasure of smoking could be enjoyed along with other entertainments like dancing, drinking or gambling, a kind of freedom only stopped apparently, by getting married (see below).

Observer 1/02/1908: 17.

Lastly, let’s say that smoking as male habit turns around well into the 20th century, when women began to smoke, in part to liberate themselves symbolically from political and social oppression. Smoking as an expression of maturity, sexiness and sophistication linked to the liberal notions of independence and individuality, eventually lessened the male monopoly on tobacco.

See, definitely entangled with gender issues! Free Lance 18/07/1914: 8.

Evening Post 3/12/1927: 15. Hope you allow me the ironies today. I absolutely agree, it seems a comfy suit. But I don’t understand why in particular for the smokers. Ha! Gotcha! To put the smoking stuff in your pockets! There is no doubt, clever design!

Unfortunately, we haven’t found much sure evidence of women smoking (or specifically of men, to be fair) in the archaeological record. Women feature as decoration on clay pipes, and we’ve found a few examples decorated in styles usually associated with ‘the feminine’, but – as we’ve discussed before on the blog – attributing gender to objects in archaeology is not always as easy as we would like.

Feminine pipes? Who knows! Anyway, on top, two colourful pipes decorated with flowers and at the bottom, a fancy pipe with a female figure ridding side-saddle along the stem. Certainly, an elegant lady! Image: J. Garland.

At this point, only left an essential question…is smoking a vice?

What a witty man… Observer 1/12/1906: 16.

Maria Lillo Bernabeu

References

Anson, D., 1983. Typology and Seriation of Wax Vesta Tin Matchboxes from Central Otago: A New Method of Dating Historic Sites in New Zealand. [online] Available at http://nzarchaeology.org/cms/NZJA/Vol%205%201983/NZJA5.115-138Anson.pdf [Accessed November 2017]

Ayto, E. G., 1994. Clay Tobacco Pipes. Shire Publications.

British American Tobacco New Zealand, 2017. [online] Available at: http://www.batnz.com/group/sites/BAT_9VNKQW.nsf/vwPagesWebLive/DO9T5K5C [Accessed November 2017}

Burton, R., 1948. The Anatomy of Melancholy. Tudor Publishing. New York.

Dayton University, 2017. The History of Tobacco, [online] Available at: http://academic.udayton.edu/health/syllabi/tobacco/history.htm [Accessed November 2017]

Godden, G., 1991. Encyclopaedia of British Pottery and Porcelain Marks. Crown Publishers, New York.

Hilton, M., 2000. Smoking in British popular culture 1800-2000. Perfect Pleasures. Manchester University Press. Manchester and New York.

Latham, A.M.C., 2017. Sir Walter Raleigh. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Walter-Raleigh-English-explorer [Accessed November 2017]

Paper Past. [online] Available at www.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz. [Accessed November 2017]

The Long Tobacco Road. A History of Smoking from Ritual to Cigarette, 2009. [online] Available at: http://www.randomhistory.com/2009/01/31_tobacco.html [Accessed November 2017]

Rodgman, A. and Perfetti, A., 2013. The Chemical Components of Tobacco and Tobacco Smoking. CRC Press. Taylor & Francis Group. Boca Raton. London. New York.

Tasker, J., 1993. NZ Matches and Matchboxes. Ohinemuri Regional History Journal, Vol. 37. [online] Available at http://www.ohinemuri.org.nz/journals/65-journal-37-september-1993/1370-nz-matches-and-matchboxes [Accessed November 2017].

White, S., 2016. The McPhees: New Zealand’s first clay pipemakers. Archaeology in New Zealand, v. 59, pp.10-28.