Rural Women New Zealand – stand out performance!

 I blogged about the Rowley Brooch in March. This is a follow up.

After publishing my blog I was invited to Alexandra by the Rural Women Committee to present the Rowley Brooch at the Otago – Southland regional conference. I thought how crazy to fly to Queenstown collect a rental car and then subject myself to having to speak in front of people renowned for their speaking abilities. I need my head read!! Anyway I decided to do this in memory of my Mother.

I arrived on a very wet and cold Autumn afternoon thinking again “I must be mad flying to Alexandra for this 30 minute stint”.  However the welcome was very warm, the speakers were inspiring and I have no regrets at being a part of these women’s convention. I gained more than I gave that is for sure! Before I went someone suggested Rural Women NZ is no longer valid in the community because modern women don’t need them!! an ignorant comment for sure. The women were not old, they were not frumpy, they were not boring. They were vibrant leaders of their communities and rural women should be clambering to join up!!. They open doors with Government to get the best deal for rural children, they liaise with health professionals to get better rural medical services and so forth. I asked a  prominent Central Otago woman Ellen Ramsey  for some comments on the relativity of these competitions and especially the Rowley Brooch.

Her comments 

” RWNZ has always encouraged and promoted opportunities to women to increase their ability to be effective communicators. The organisation values this annual event as it provides an occasion for women to hone their public speaking skills. Participation in this competition is a great platform on which to develop the confidence required to articulate issues and concerns which require attention. RWNZ believes this competition has great merit. It is enabling members to continue Mrs Rowley’s advocacy role.”

In my first blog I mentioned Jenny Malcom who won the Rowley Brooch a few years ago.. Surprise surprise she won the local event again. This time I   met this talented woman, although in less than ideal circumstances. I have to say her story just proves what a fantastic strong leader Jenny is.

I emailed her along these lines. ” I was so pleased to meet you in person in Alexandra after the Rowley Brooch  speech that you again deservedly  won. I haven’t been in touch as I know you had  a family bereavement then”. Her response “I had the speech on the Monday, Dads funeral on the Wednesday and my husband and I flew out to France on the Friday so it was a very busy week but a lovely funeral and end to the week ! ” See what I mean about strong!

jenny malcom

Left: Jenny Malcom Right: Lynn Clayton  daughter of Pat Rowley

Jenny can you answer a few questions for me?

I wonder how long the preparation  took to write and then memorise your speech? Any tricks or tips  on how to go about such a task?

I usually write my speeches when I am out on my daily walk to shift the cattle, as for some reason the creative juices really flow when I am exercising.  I carry a notebook and jot the ideas down and any sentences or phrases that sound right according to the topic given.  This process may take a few weeks or less, and when I feel I have enough material, I start to pool the ideas into a logical order to formulate the speech with an introduction, middle and end.  I draw on personal experience because for me the words flow better when I write what I know. I try to incorporate humour as that always keeps the audience interested.

Will you present the same  speech at the New Zealand final or do you have a new subject? If so what is the subject? Where is the NZ final??and when?

Yes I will present the same speech at National Conference as in Alexandra at the Regional conference.  11th-13th November in Wellington (Nat Conference)

Who chose the regional subject and what was the brief you were given?

National Exec RWNZ choose the speech topic for the Regional and National competitions and it is usually announced at the previous National conference (a year ahead)  The speech can cover anything under the topic heading, eg, the year we had the topic After the Ball, regional contest, there were speeches about After Ball parties, Meat Balls being chased around town by dogs and cooks, Different types of sports balls etc  They have to be 3-5 minutes long.


Left: Margaret Pittaway from RWNZ.  Lisa Mair from sponsors FMG,  Jenny Malcolm the winner, Lynn Clayton & Judge Susan McDonald.

So we can all wish  Jenny Good luck for November. My short ‘speech’ was something like the following. I wanted to give a glimpse into my mothers life as a rural woman and mother!

I’m delighted to be here today to present the Rowley Brooch

My mother was Pat Rowley. I will tell you a little about her. When she was an 18 year old law clerk in Dunedin she caught the train to Omakau to visit her sister Edith, a teacher there.  On the train she was charmed by a young handsome farmer in uniform.  It wasn’t long before she became a wartime bride and by the time she was 23 she lived on Disputed Spur a farm near Chatto Creek with her husband and three children. ( This farm was between Alexandra and Omakau) These were not easy years, my mother was a city girl, she couldn’t boil an egg and life was pretty tough on the farm. The weekly outing was to Chatto Creek to collect the mail and stop at the pub for a few drinks… Saturday’s they might go to Omakau for rugby. But life was pretty lonely and lacking in stimulation.  My brother John was a prem baby and the plunket nurse told her to put him outside everyday for some fresh air. Imagine the plunket nurses reaction when she arrived to find him in his pram surrounded by snow!!! Such was her life on the farm .

 We were all sent to boarding school very young and when I was 10 they sold up and moved to a farm on the Teviot. My father worked daylight to dusk so my mother took things into her own hands to occupy her days. She started a small club called the Dozen club where women met and discussed travel, books etc. 

She was a keen  gardener and spent hours outside creating rock gardens.. She even imported bulbs from Holland and grew and sold them.  Then she decided to take groups of rural women on overseas adventures visiting other rural women.  I recall In 1967 my mother organised a tour for WDFF members to Canada and California. She arranged home visits with rural women in Saskatchewan and other exotic sounding places. l remember her returning from this trip with multi coloured, geometric and very bright panty hose; something not seen in NZ back then!!

 She served on the local WDFF and National Party ending up on Dominion councils for these organisations. She had quite liberated views and pushed for rural women to get off their farms and become active in organisations. She started a debating or public speaking club and then later bought a small jewellery shop in Roxburgh. My mother wasn’t going to stagnate on the farm. 

 In 1972 she donated the Rowley Brooch ( see photo at end)  to the winner of the local public speaking group of WDFF and today I am proud to see this is still competed for within the Southland and Otago interprovincial areas.  The original  speech competition was about ‘current affairs’ . The talk was more than 5 minutes and less than 6 minutes.  When Otago/ Southland became one entity as Region One, it was decided that the “Rowley Brooch” be competed for by both Provinces, using the speech title chosen for the National competition, though no record of this decision has been located. The timing of the speech was reduced to four minutes, as dictated by the National Rules. Now days rural women can lead very active and worthwhile lives, I know the young mother who lived on Disputed Spur 10 years ago attended university in Dunedin, commuting back and forth every few day. These opportunities were not available to my mothers generation. How things have changed. Despite these changes I challenge you all to have ambitions and goals in your lives. These will keep you young at heart!! 


Newspaper cutting from a Rural paper published 2016

I sincerely hope the winner of the Rowley Brooch will wear the piece with great pride and I would like to think the brooch will be competed for for many more years. I know my Mother would be so proud of you all and I am delighted to be here today.  Thankyou. 

Rowley brooch 1


9 thoughts on “Rural Women New Zealand – stand out performance!

  1. Pingback: ‘I MAY BE GONE FOR SOME TIME’ | KIWIGRAN – my escapades, my images, my thoughts :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s