a Firm and Earnest Woman's Advocate : Mary Ann Colclough 1836-1885
Polly Plum is a biography of one of New Zealand’s 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’. In this fine biography, 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, ‘Polly Plum’ began politicising women by writing about the realities of their daily lives, what needed to change and how. Coleman here reclaims Mary Ann Colclough’s place in New Zealand’s feminist history by bringing her life and contributions to a wider audience.
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