Margaret was acutely aware of the diminishing flame of the women’s movement. The strength of the National Council of Women was wavering; rifts opened, exposing the Council to criticism. In her role as the last President of the Council (before its revival in 1918), Margaret began a last-ditch effort to redistribute fundamental knowledge among all societies affiliated with the Council.
In an October 1904 letter to fellow-suffragist Amey Daldy, amidst remarks on the downturn of the women’s cause, Margaret committed herself to reconnecting New Zealand women with the work of the International Council of Women through an initiative of subscription-based reading circles: “I am trying to get each of our affiliated societies to form reading circles of special books for the spread of information re the so-called woman movement [sic]. The International Council is now committed to work for 3 objects: Peace and Arbitration, the Political equality of the sexes, and the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic - enough surely to read of, to talk of, to work for, to fight for!”
When Margaret died in March 1905, the thrust of the Council’s first four years was lost. When three other leaders died and more became unwell, the decision was made to go into recess. More than a decade later, however, Kate Sheppard, Christina Henderson, and Jessie Mackay would revive the Council, which has since made proud shifts for women and gender diverse people. In 2018, they continue to campaign for a Gender Equal New Zealand.
Margaret Home Sievwright was a bright young woman who became a force for change. Her colleagues and friends celebrated her life of self-sacrifice and devotion to the women’s suffrage movement by erecting a monument to her in Peel Street, Gisborne. An inscription on the monument reads, “Ever a friend to the friendless, an uncompromising upholder of all that is merciful, temperate, and just.”
Letters from Margaret Home Sievwright comprise the majority of the Amey Daldy collection of correspondence held in our library.