The legacy of historic Hamilton figure Dame Hilda Ross has been recognised in a statue that was unveiled on Saturday in Garden Place.
A large crowd attended the unveiling of the statue, an event that attracted a mixture of city councillors, politicians, Dame Hilda's family and descendants, members of the public and the odd street dweller.
The unveiling was the conclusion on an eight-year effort by charitable trust TOTI (Theatre of the Impossible). TOTI trustee and former Hamilton mayor Margaret Evans said the issues close to Dame Hilda are just as relevant today.
"She was passionate about improving education and wellbeing, making sure children were eating properly through food in schools programmes, reducing violence against women and children, healthy living and resolving poverty," Evans said.
Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate said Dame Hilda paved the way for women to actively enter politics.
"She was both tough and compassionate and her work has made our city and New Zealand a better and more inclusive place," Southgate said.
The statue was sculpted by Otaki artist Matt Gauldie, who was happy to see Ross' family gather around the statue.
"I couldn't be happier to see it being used to educate about not just Hilda Ross as a person but also about the early pioneers of women in leadership."
Gauldie said the Ross family were "the toughest critics because they knew her best".
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.
"I was lucky enough to work with Colin and Campbell Ross [Hilda Ross' grandsons], who both came to Otaki and checked it out. I worked under their instruction."
National list MP David Bennett said that Ross was"an icon of Hamilton."
"I think it's a fantastic statue, everyone said she was a diminutive figure when they were describing her. It's a great thing for Hamilton, it's right in the right place, she's looking at the council giving them direction and it's right in the main street," Bennett said.
The weather also turned up as a guest, as it rained down a couple of times during the event, with those in attendance either using their umbrellas or making a run under the shop awnings in Garden Place.
Dame Hilda Ross was elected to Parliament as the National MP for the Hamilton seat in 1945 replacing Frank Findlay. Like Ross, Findlay was a councillor and deputy mayor.
Findlay was elected in 1943 before his death, suffering from a heart attack while playing tennis.
Dame Hilda was elected to the Waikato Hospital Board in 1941 and became a councillor on what was the Hamilton Borough Council in 1944 and became deputy mayor in 1945.
Dame Hilda was MP for 14 years, during which she served in Cabinet under then-Prime Minister Sidney Holland, holding ministerial portfolios such as Child Welfare, Social Security and Welfare of Women and Children.
Dame Hilda was 75 when she died in 1959 and it is estimated that over 10,000 people attended her funeral.
Colin Ross, Hilda's grandson, said it was "very satisfying" to see his grandmother's statue be unveiled.
"She's been dead for 60 years. I think she's been, having respect to the way she was appreciated in her lifetime, I feel she's been forgotten. This brings back so much of that," Ross said.
Dame Hilda raised Colin when he was growing up, so his relationship was "intensely personal.".
"She was effectively father and mother to me during the war years and she fitted in looking after me during the war with her various activities.
"But she was always totally respectful of me and gave me good attention."