Spotlight on colonial feminist fanatic Mary Ann Colclough 18361885

By Otago University Press | Posted: Monday June 12, 2017

Polly Plum is a biography of one of New Zealands earliest feminists, Mary Ann Colclough, whose publicly voiced opinions saw her described in the nineteenth century as our own little stray strap of a modern female fanatic.

English-born Mary Ann Barnes came to New Zealand in 1857, and soon gained notoriety for her outspokenness on issues relating to women’s position in society. A teacher and also a journalist for the Daily Southern Cross and the Weekly News under the nom de plume ‘Polly Plum’, she also engaged in public debates through the letters to the editor columns, undeterred by becoming ‘the best abused woman in New Zealand in the present day’.

Author Jenny Coleman argues that Mary Ann Colclough’s contribution to the women’s movement in nineteenth-century New Zealand is at least equal to that of Kate Sheppard.

A good two decades ahead of the organised women’s movement, the writings of ‘Polly Plum’ began politicising New Zealand women, says Ms Coleman.

‘She wrote and lectured about real women and the realities of their daily lives, what needed to change and how it could be changed.’

‘She engaged in a direct manner with the public through her newspaper journalism, through debates in the letters to the editor columns, and, breaking with accepted conventions of the time, by taking her message to the public platform.’

In this fascinating new book, Jenny Coleman reclaims Mary Ann Colclough’s place in New Zealand’s feminist history by bringing her life and contributions to a wider audience.

Polly Plum: A firm and earnest woman’s advocate Mary Ann Colclough 1836–1885

By Jenny Coleman
Release Date: June 2017
ISBN 978-0-947522-47-6

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