In Memoriam: Audrey Jarvis

Audrey Jarvis
Photo of Audrey Jarvis submitted by
Anne McCarthy with the permission
of the Jarvis family.

The Manawatu Branch of the National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ) mourns the death on 22 January 2024 of a loved and valued long-term member, Audrey Jarvis

In 2004, Audrey became the Methodist Church’s delegate to the Manawatu Branch NCWNZ which she, like all of us, referred to as NCW.

She was soon elected to the Branch executive, then to the vice presidency and in 2009 she was elected Branch President. She served in that role for the maximum time of four years.

One of the actions that Audrey was most proud of took place in 2009. Cotton On, the clothing firm, had started selling tee shirts for children with slogans that were inappropriate for them. Led by Audrey, Branch members sat outside Cotton On, cutting up some of the offending tee shirts, all the while explaining to the passers by what they were doing, why they were doing it and encouraging them to boycott the store. Subsequently, Cotton On stopped selling the tee shirts.

In 2016 Audrey was awarded a Distinguished Service Award by NCW New Zealand. Her nomination mentions that, more than once, she represented the Branch on the panels for Palmerston North City Council Civic Awards and TrustPower Community awards. She also represented the Branch at meetings about Pharmac funding and about alcohol legislation.

The nomination also refers to the Branch activities Audrey was involved in. As well as the Cotton On campaign, these included making submissions to both the MidCentral and Whanganui District Health Boards on maternity services. She also presented copies of Megan Hutching's Leading the Way – How New Zealand Women Won the Vote to five local secondary schools with female pupils. The books had been donated by NCW Manawatu.

In making those presentations Audrey spoke about a topic that was dear to her heart and the area where she has left a lasting legacy in Palmerston North. That topic was women’s suffrage and the importance to women both of voting and of representation. Much of Audrey’s leadership both during her presidency and afterwards was in this area.

Audrey organised activities for Women’s Suffrage Day including a forum where women who were voting for the first time spoke about its importance for them. One of the contributions that Audrey was most impressed by, and which she spoke of often, was from a recent immigrant who told the gathering that, although women had the right to vote in her country of origin, her male family members refused to allow her to do so. She was pleased that in New Zealand they would not be able to drag her out of the queue and so she could vote.

Another initiative of her presidency was holding training sessions for women interested in standing in the local body elections. Among the women who benefited from this training are current Palmerston North City Councillors Leonie Hapeta and Lorna Johnson, former Palmerston North Deputy Mayor Aleisha Rutherford and current Horizons chair Rachel Keedwell.

Audrey also coordinated “meet the women candidates” meetings to raise awareness of the need for women to be represented on our councils and District Health Boards.

Audrey’s continuing dedication to this has led to increases in the number of women on both the Palmerston North City council and Horizons Council compared to the number before NCW Manawatu’s activity started.

Audrey has been an outstanding example of feminism in action. Her efforts have benefited the women of our community and, through them, the community as a whole.

Her enthusiasm, commitment and wise counsel will be sorely missed.

By
Helen Chong and Janice Viles
Past Presidents of National Council of Women Manawatu Branch


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