After a long and hard three year battle, the installation and unveiling of the Dame Hilda Ross statue in Hamilton will take place this weekend in Garden Place.
The statue, which has been on the cards since 2017, was originally supposed to be an entire plaza dedicated to Hilda Ross on Ward St next to Starbucks and Centre Place, however the previous council could not agree on funding $50,000 for the plaza costs and it was put back on the shelf.
The TOTI Trust had commissioned and raised the $200,000 cost of the sculpture. The present council has given the go-ahead for the installation in Garden Place on Saturday at 11am.
Dame Hilda (1889-1959) is a historic Hamilton figure. Her social and political work held pioneer status in her time. Dame Hilda co-founded children's health camps, was well-versed in music and conducting, and was a hospital board member.
World War II saw her become a Member of Parliament and a Cabinet minister, and she saw through Hamilton's achievement of city status in 1945.
She was the first Hamilton/Waikato woman elected as an MP in 1945 and became the second woman in New Zealand to become a Cabinet minister in 1949.
Artist Matt Gauldie's bronze sculpture portrays Dame Hilda in Parliament, with one hand holding a copy of the 1919 Act which finally allowed women to become MPs, while the other is raised, advocating on behalf of women and children, whose welfare she considered her principal concern.
The sculpture unveiling will be a public event featuring live music performances and guest speakers Dame Marilyn Waring and feminist historian Dr Jenny Coleman and Georgina Beyer.
Hamilton's first woman mayor Margaret Evans, who now sits on TOTI Trust, said Hilda Ross' piece of history had been overlooked.
"Many know that women obtained the right to vote in 1893 but not that they were prohibited from a seat in Parliament until 1919, and that right also had to be fought for," Evans said.
"The unveiling will be a celebration of one of our nation's greatest 20th century women, along with the progress women have made in being represented in parliament as we mark the anniversary of the enabling act."
Dame Marilyn Waring, who was National's MP for Waipa during 1975-1984 and author of The Political Years, was once predicted as 'the next Hilda Ross'.
"The event is at a great time to be celebrating parliamentary women," Waring said.
The 2020 general election resulted in a record high of 23 new women MPs. From 1919, until this year's election there had been a total of 150 women MPs nationally.
New Zealand now has the most diverse House ever in terms of age, gender, LGBTIQ, ethnicities, and Māori representation.
Associate Professor Jenny Coleman, author of From Suffrage to a Seat in the House, is currently writing a new book on women MPs' maiden speeches.
She said Dame Hilda Ross chose a "positive frame of reference for her maiden speech" insisting, "We must never lose sight of our paramount duty to serve the people - all the people, not merely one section of the community."