19 June 2005
Hundreds Farewell Sonja Davies
Around 1,100 people gathered in the Wellington Town Hall today for the funeral to celebrate the life of former MP, trade unionist and peace activist Sonja Davies.
Sonja Davies, ONZ, died last Sunday in Wellington. She was 81.
She was carried into the Town Hall by a number of her women friends as the Wellington union women’s choir sang Bread and Roses, the song from which the first volume of her autobiography took its title.
The ceremony was lead by her friend, Charles Chauvel and the speakers were the Governor-General, Dame Silvia Cartwright, the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, Parliament’s Speaker, Margaret Wilson, Council of Trade Unions secretary Carol Beaumont, Sir Tipene O’Regan, on behalf of her iwi, Ngai Tahu, and her brother David Mackersey.
Many of the speakers paid tribute to Sonja Davies’ work advancing the rights of women, working people, and in the peace movement.
Dame Silvia Cartwright described her as a New Zealand icon who “pricked the conscience of a nation”.
“Sonja Davies was a unique person who made a difference to the lives of thousands of New Zealanders.”
Helen Clark paid tribute to a passionate woman who stood up for what she believed in all her life and was a “force to be reckoned with” when she was fighting for the rights of others.
Margaret Wilson told the gathering that Sonja Davies was a great leader who had made a huge contribution to the advancement of women, particularly though the Working Women’s Charter “an agenda for equality for working women – an agenda we are still pursing today”.
Carol Beaumont spoke about her activism for women’s issues within trade unions. “Sonja was a woman whose life inspired many others, those who knew her personally and many who didn’t know her.”
Her brother, David Mackersey described her loyalty to her family and her everlasting friendships with many people, while Sir Tipene O’Regan remembered what he called Sonja Davies’ great quality, “an enduring and indomitable optimism”.
A private cremation ceremony followed the funeral.