3 Jun 2013

Tribute paid to women's champion Dame Margaret Shields

5:07 pm on 3 June 2013

A former colleague of the late Dame Margaret Shields, Annette King, says she worked hard to ensure that women got equal rights in New Zealand.

Dame Margaret died last Wednesday in Paraparaumu, aged 71.

Born Margaret Porter in Wellington in 1941, she entered Parliament in 1978 when she won the Kapiti seat for Labour, but lost it on a magisterial recount by 83 votes to the National Party candidate. She took the seat in 1981 and went into Cabinet when David Lange's government took power in 1984 and served as Minister of Customs and Consumer Affairs.

Annette King.

Annette King. Photo: LABOUR PARTY

As Labour MP for Rongotai, Annette King worked alongside Dame Margaret in Parliament from 1984 to 1990 and describes her as dedicated and a great mentor.

"In most things she did she wanted to see a better lot for women in New Zealand. I think that she probably made one of the greatest contributions to raising the issues for women and ensuring that women got equal rights in New Zealand."

Dame Margaret believed her most important goal was to ensure women had not grown up to feel like second-class citizens. In 1975, she founded the Women's Electoral Lobby which pushed for law changes to remove discrimination against women.

After her electoral defeat in 1990, Dame Margaret became head of the United Nations' Institute for Training and Research for the Advancement of Women. Under her leadership, the institute began the first stage of a major study of the value of unpaid work.

Dame Margaret was also highly regarded in local government circles. Before entering Parliament, she served on the Wellington Hospital Board and was later elected unopposed as the first woman leader of Wellington Regional Council in 2001.

In 2008, she was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and the following year accepted the title of Dame Companion.

Dame Margaret is survived by her husband Pat, and one of their two daughters, Catharine.