Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Thames (NZ): First lady to contest Thames Electoral seat 1919

Today it is considered 'normal' for women to contest the electoral seats, in 1919 the first woman stood for the Thames Electorate. Her name was Mrs Lindsay Cooke and she stood as an independent candidate.
At an electoral meeting held at the St James Hall  on 19th November 1919, Cooke's reported comments were: The candidate said she opposed the recent constant appeals of the worker to the Arbitration Court for increases of wages, as such increases only brought about a corresponding increase in the cost of living. She considered that a far better system would be to apply for a reduction in the cost of living. In answer to a question as to how she would vote on a no-confidence motion, she said it would depend on the question before the House. If it was a beneficial measure she would vote for it and against the no-confidence motion, and if it were a measure against the interests of the Dominion she would vote against it and support the no confidence motion. (NZ Herald 20/11/1919)

Over the following weeks Cooke was kept busy with meetings around the area, at halls at townships such as Kopu, Puru, Coromandel and Turua - all remarked large attendances. Some of her comments were questioned in the papers, but the fact that she stood on the soldiers' platform seemed favourable.
There were four other candidates for the seat: T F Long, W J McCormick, J Purtell and T W Rhodes (The sitting candidate).
MRS. LINDSAY COOKE, Independent Candidate for Thames
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19191127-37-1
The Voting was carried out in the December 1919 elections and the results were not in Mrs Cooke's favour, despite the excellent reception and hearing around the great Thames area, Mrs Cooke polled 70 votes. MP Rhodes was convincingly returned to parliament.
Hawera & Normanby Star, 19 December 1919
Who was Mrs Cooke? In 1935 her political career saw her stand as a candidate for the Auckland Mayoral race, aged 73 years. This decision was later changed. A full biography appeared in the paper. Many of the facts in this article do not align with a later biography at the Te Ara Encylopedia site. A snippet says: In 1917 Aileen Wrack divorced her second husband and eight days later, on 28 February, at Auckland, married Lindsay Cooke, publican of the Queen's Ferry Hotel. He took over the licence of the Junction Hotel, Thames, in 1919. In the general election of that year Aileen Cooke contested the seat of Thames, gaining 72 votes. She was one of three women to stand in the election, the first in which women were eligible to do so.
Born Aileen Anna Maria Douglas (later Garmson, Wrack, Cooke), she died in Auckland on the 30th May 1951. A woman who had a very interesting life, worked hard on social, employment and political issues. An important person in early Women's politics in New Zealand and Australia.