Lucy Lawless The Suffragette in Hot Words & Bold Retorts at Auckland Museum July 6 to October 31, 2018

Wonder women: Gaylene Preston puts NZ's suffragettes on big screen

A new film brings to life the New Zealand suffrage campaign, writes Angela Barnett.

Gaylene Preston chose a haunted house as the location for her latest film, Hot Words & Bold Retorts, celebrating 125 years of suffrage. There's a ghost, who apparently still walks the rooms at night. "She didn't visit while we were filming," Preston says, "I imagine she'd probably be pretty stoked to have such a talented bunch in her house."

That talented bunch being Lucy Lawless, Miranda Harcourt, Chelsie Preston-Crayford and Jean Sergeant, all of whom embody the voices of real women who either voted in the 1893 elections or were part of the campaign.


Preston loves a moment when Lawless' character, Helen Wilson (1869-1957) says, "It was said that New Zealand women had the vote handed to them on a platter. Not true! There were a great many agitations and hot words and though there was no violence, there was some absurdity. They said women were too sentimental to listen to reason or always vote for the most handsome candidate." Preston quips, "which is of course terribly true, although I'm not sure what happened with Trump."


Lawless' character sums up Preston's sentiment, "The status of women badly wanted raising - they were not supposed to be able to handle money and property. "We are much more useful to the community than our grandmothers were."


Hot Words & Bold Retorts will screen daily every 15 minutes in the forthcoming exhibition Are We There Yet?, July 6-Oct 31, Special Exhibitions Hall, free with museum entry.

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