Going to the Conference
In our last issue we described the history and purpose of the Maori Women's Welfare League. This time we are publishing an article by Mrs Paki which shows the social side of the League in a juicy tale of preparations for annual conference.
Now it is nearly time for another conference of the Maori Women's Welfare League, and once again our minds turn to such things as remits and giving day contributions, travelling arrangements and such like. It's a big responsibility and yet lots of fun too. Meetings take on new life, and our minds go back to other such conferences, and we think of those we met and those we are likely to meet again, and we wonder if there'll be as many there and so on. Now let's start reminiscing!
When preparations began in earnest for the big event, and members met, conference to us women was the favourite topic. Forgotten was the water shortage, the poor potato crop, or the early drop in milk production. All these were secondary to preparations for conference, and we lent only half an ear to hubby's small talk of ‘the new fence’ or the ‘fat lambs’ or ‘gettin’ the hay pressed’, and such like. A feeling of anticipation ran high, every member being keyed up to a state of great expectation, even our hubbies who, through the course of the year, had become sceptical, now became caught up in the excitement of the hour, to the point of discussing the approaching event with non-league friends, carefully pointing out what the Maori Women's Welfare League was endeavouring to do for the community as a whole.
Now our story concerns just one delegate to conference, yet I think, is typical of the majority of them—mothers of families and in quite humble circumstances, taken from the average everyday women not over endowed with initiative, but with a great desire to make a go of things!
So back to the preparations—first and foremost, the family had to be considered, clothing prepared and sorted and left in readiness, the cupboard stored and extra cooking done and every little detail seen to. Then mum's wardrobe came in for close scrutiny, not being an elaborate one, certain sources had to be tapped to make the necessary additions.
As the time neared, an occasional visitor
The Taumarunui District Council of M.W.W.L. is holding its first annual progress day. (20TH CENTURY PHOTOGRAPHY)
‘Hello Rangi! I brought these things along for you to take to the conference for display, do you think there'll be a display room?’
‘Yes Janie! I'm pretty sure there'll be a display room, and I'm getting in touch with Maggie for that cloth she crocheted.’
‘Oh yes, do! And look, I brought my cardigan, I'm sure it'll go with your floral linen frock, and how are you for a suitcase? You'd better take that new one of mine?’
‘Oh, ta Janie. I think I will too.’
Enter another caller.
‘Hello folks! All ready for the fray?’ to hostess.
‘Oh hello Kura! Take a seat. How do you like this for a match?’ indicating linen frock and Janie's cardigan.
‘Very nice indeed Mrs ….’ in mocking seriousness. ‘And look I brought along my short coat, it might be handy to wear if it turns out chilly. What have you planned for the social evening? Practice up that song, you know …. and that recitation.’
‘Oh Kura! My song days are over’ rather regretfully. ‘I can only tackle hymns, and no one would want to listen to them, and as for the recitation—that's stale.’
‘No such thing,’ say callers in unison.
‘You think it stale but it will give pleasure to some at the Conference, and it's something different,’ says one. ‘And besides,’ says the other, ‘you must show them that we aren't altogether dumb.’
Much laughter and demonstrations by callers, while delegate smiles warily, fully realising her responsibility to her fellow members, and trying not to think of herself.
‘Oh well, we'll see,’ she says, Just then the telephone rings and Janie answers it.
‘Hello—yes this is 2390—yes Hera, she's here checking over her pretties—yes—yes—you don't say!—how nice—very well Hera, ta!’
‘What's all the news?’ ask the others.
‘Hera rang to say she was up in …. on Monday and she met so-and-so and so-and-so doing their shopping for conference: they had bought evening frocks for the social and were all ready for the road.’
‘Are you wearing your evening skirt, Rangi?’
‘Hera said she has a nice lacey blouse to go over it, unless you're going to invest in a new evening frock.’
‘Oh I couldn't do that, it's alright for those that can, but I'll be glad of a loan of Hera's blouse.’
‘And she said that the Hon …. will be at the social and also …. and ….’
‘How nice,’ says Kura, ‘I wouldn't mind being there to dance with the Hon….’
‘Me either,’ says Janie, ‘I'm going to learn me a special waiata for next year, you'll see! And I'll go to Conference too, but just now I'd better dodge off, or my bread will be risen and overflowing, so sing out if I can help you Rangi.’
‘I'll walk along with you Janie,’ says Kura.
‘Thank you both,’ says hostess. ‘See you on Friday.’
Friday is sale day and the little town is very busy and our delegate wends her way through the crowds often consulting and checking her list—½ yard hat veiling, safety pins, nylons, nail file, hankies, toothpaste, suede cleaner,
foundation garment, platignum pen, note book, lingerie, etc., etc.
She meets many League members, who all discuss conference. Some are going as observers for the first time.
‘Do you know,’ says one, ‘I tramped all over town for a coat to suit me?’
‘Goodness Riki! You don't need one at this time of the year.’
‘Oh my old man said I must have one, and I've bought three frocks, and as for nylons, I'll be broke before I finish.’
‘But my dear Riki’ says Rangi, ‘it's a Conference not a dress parade.’
‘Well my old man, he wants me to look nice.’
And so the time for leaving comes, and there are women and more women, all well groomed and looking prosperous, boarding the train at all stations, and the greetings—the chatter and laughter. Then on arrival at the city, all are taken to their various places of board, and the ‘old hands’ take over the ‘new hands’, and show them the ropes. It's a great experience! The ‘new hands’ invariably say, ‘I'm coming again next year.’
It is there that we see the other side of the question, a side we had not perhaps, dreamed of. It's good to see so many fine thinking women, and mingle one with another, and many are the little incidents that dwell in your memory long after. And how refreshing to meet someone else just as' country bumpkinish’ as yourself! Someone just as unused to living in an hotel, riding in lifts, changing every evening, and being waited upon. Then there is the getting tangled in all the cutlery at dinner, and looking at the menu as if it were a crossword puzzle, to say nothing of those traffic lights, and taxi drivers who say,’ where to Ma'am?’ when you don't know yourself, and were just on the verge of asking.
How we can bolster one another's courage, and laugh at all the little nothings, such as helping one another across the street as if it was the jungle full of tigers ‘n things, wishing we could look like some of our more experienced sisters, full of poise, and self assurance. Ah, yes! It's grand to be going to Conference; and when it's all over, it's grand to get back to the kids and the cows and old hubby, who doesn't expect too much of you.