Tuesday, November 17, 2009

This week in New Zealand history: Mark Twain's visit

In 1895, Mark Twain spent a month in New Zealand, as part of the year-long lecture tour he made to pay off his debts. He travelled the country, encountering such unexpected events as dogs being brought to his show in the South Island town of Timaru. On the 21st of November he arrived in Auckland, and performed his "At Home" in the city's Opera House to a packed audience. Those attending had paid 1/- (in the Pit), 2/6 (Stalls), or the princely sum of four shillings for seats in the Dress Circle. No dogs were in attendance.

As a supporter of women's suffrage, Twain was particularly impressed that New Zealand women had had the vote for two years by the time of his visit. From his account of the tour, Following the Equator:

In the New Zealand law occurs this: "The word person wherever it occurs throughout the Act includes woman."

That is promotion, you see. By that enlargement of the word, the matron with the garnered wisdom and experience of fifty years becomes at one jump the political equal of her callow kid of twenty-one.

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