It all started with two little bits of white paper.. ticker-tape that had dropped from the theatre over the audience at the end of That Bloody Woman.... the bits of paper I had picked up as souvenirs of the white camellia petals falling on the stage.
It wasn't till after the show that I realised they had signatures on them, the names of those who had signed the Women's Suffrage Petition.
It's the next morning and I'm wondering if these names are real.
Finding Anna M Howie
First stop the NZ History website to check the database of those who signed the petition.
Remember I said I had two pieces of ticker-tape, one was for Kate Caldwell and one for Anna M Howie. I put Howie into the database and got no Anna's.
So I tried Caldwell and there was Kate.
Kate was to be found on Sheet 336 in Waverley in the Whanganui region.
No biography exists for Kate, so maybe I should work on that.
As always, the original record needed to be seen and right at the bottom of this image you can see Kate's signature.
And what's more it matched my little piece of ticker-tape.
But scanning a little bit further and what's that I see a little further up, but Anna M Howie, in a 'family' of Howie's. But she hadn't come up in my search, had she? Let's just check those Howie's again.
There's Ellen, Jane and Helen C, but no Anna listed between Ellen and Jane.
The NZ History website tells me that the database was updated in December 2013 when the sheets were re-digitised by Archives New Zealand, so maybe the Archives New Zealand database might be more complete.
So I searched for Helen Howie in the Collections Search.
And yet again no Anna in the list of the women who signed on Sheet 336.
Learnings and Questions
I know you should always check the original documents, but for some reason I trusted this index more as it was for such an important document.
I now wonder if there are more hidden women on the petition sheets. So if you haven't found your ancestor, make sure you have searched by place names as well and looked at the original sheets.
Also don't forget to check the 1892 petition as well, these are also digitised and indexed on the Archives New Zealand website, but appear as an attached spreadsheet on the NZ History website.
To fix Anna's omission I've sent an item inquiry form to Archives New Zealand with the details and hopefully it will get fixed [UPDATE: It's now fixed on both the Archives New Zealand and NZ History websites - Thanks to the teams for fixing this so quickly].
As always there are more questions, number one being who was Anna M Howie and how was she related to the other Howie women? Then of course there is my other piece of ticker-tape, Kate Caldwell... I haven't forgotten her. I've added them both to the Memories in Time Project tree on Ancestry for further research.
This one sheet of the petition had around 60 women who gave their address as Waverley and I haven't checked for any other sheets from the area. The statistics for the 1891 census suggest that there were only 206 females (excluding Māori) in the Waverley TD (town district) and without doing any in-depth research I'm going to guess that includes children. Does this mean a high proportion of women in this area signed the petition compared to other areas?
So there we have it - Anna M Howie is an Unexpected Hidden Woman of the Women's Suffrage Petition 1893.
How serendipitous was it to have picked up these two pieces of ticker-tape that happened to be on the same sheet of the petition allowing Anna to be found. Thanks Showbiz Christchurch ... the show was fantastic and finding Anna a real bonus.
If you want to know more about The Hidden Women Project