The days of etiquette past

Joan Sutherland and Anne Jennings cut the cake at The Southland Women's Club 95th anniversary celebrations.
Joanna Griffiths/Fairfax NZ

Joan Sutherland and Anne Jennings cut the cake at The Southland Women's Club 95th anniversary celebrations.

They are probably the most proper women in Southland. 

Polished and primped, and not a hair out of place, the ladies of the Southland Women's Club celebrated 95 years of the organisation at a formal lunch at the clubrooms on Esk St on Friday. 

Rows of dainty ladies filed into a room and burst into conversation with old friends.

With straight backs, legs tucked neatly behind each other (not crossed) and napkins laid on their knees, the ladies nodded and smiled at shared memories.

As president Iris Marshall took the stand to welcome the group the room fell silent.

The club had come a long way in 95 years, Iris said.

From witnessing the first tarsealing of a road in Invercargill, to seeing the rise and fall in popularity of the hat pin. 

The year the club was founded, eight women had been arrested for wearing unprotected hat pins on trains in Southland, she said. 

"It's almost unbelievable ... they really were dreadful things." 

Lifting their glasses high, they toasted the Queen, blessed their food and then began the festivities. 

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Life member Anne Jennings said it was great to see that, regardless of how much time went past, some traditions never changed.

"It has kept its standard to a certain extent; people still get dressed up and make an effort. It's nice."

Some things had changed though, she said.

Being a part of the club used to be a sought-after privilege, with members getting vetted, she said. 

"I had to put on a white hat and gloves and approach the board, asking to join."

Back then, women were required to wear floor-length gowns with matching gloves, shoes and handbags to any, and all, evening events. 

Many of the ladies had been members for more than half of their life, she said.

"I am only two years younger than the club, and I joined in 1948."

Things were a lot easier these days. If people wanted to become members all they had to do was ask, she said. 

"We are always looking for new members." 

The club was looking for the next generation of members to keep the legacy going.

 - Stuff


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