New Zealand's women MPs took time out to reflect on the changing face of Parliament, remembering the Women's Parliamentary Rights Act 1919 which gave them the right to stand for Parliament.
Given the nature of Parliament, the Act didn't actually come into being a hundred years ago yesterday, as many of the women speakers lauded, in fact that'll happen next Tuesday but they'll be having a week off.
But this place is good at celebrating a sense of occasion, and they did even if it was a week early.
There were some good yarns with many mentioning the first woman MP, Elizabeth McCombs from Lyttleton only coming into the place a full 14 years after they were allowed to stand. McCombs took over from her husband who died a year into his term. She was only there until the next election before standing aside for her adopted son Terry who held the seat until 1951, meaning the family held Lyttleton for 38 years!
Her brief time in the male bastion must have been difficult her and for those who'd occupied it since the year dot. They had to take the "No women permitted" sign down over Bellamy's dining room but McCombs was never permitted to enter the inner sanctum, the notorious Bellamy's bar which has seen many male careers compromised over the years. The Speech from the Throne also had to change with the Governor General referring to MPs for the first time not as gentlemen but as members.
But progress to accommodate women was slow. They were not welcomed in the eight table billiard room until the 80s which was housed in the magnificent Grand Hall, then closed to the public but now a thriving function room. There are now just two tables in a back room, more as a reminder of the past than a hive of activity.
As the current crop reflected on how the place has changed, it gave me time for reflection. Helen Clark was elected as the 17th woman MP the year after I began working in what was then a fob-watch, tweed suited, RSA male institution headed by Rob Muldoon whose view of a woman's place was pretty typical of the time.
"There is no keener shopper anywhere than the New Zealand housewife," he observed. "Sales, bargains and "specials" are the happy hunting ground of the housewife making the most of her weekly budget," Muldoon reflected on the way they spent their husband's pay.
Yeah well the 17 women MPs from Clark's day have now grown to 49, making up 41 percent of those represented in Parliament who are very much the presence in Parliament and woe betide anyone with a view like Muldoon's around here today.