Page 5: Peace movements
Davies, Sonja Margaret Loveday
Nurse, labour activist, women’s rights activist, politician, peace campaigner
This biography, written by Anne Else, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 2010.
Ever since Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed in 1945, Davies had been concerned over the issue of nuclear arms. She had almost left Labour at her first party conference in 1961, when F. P. Walsh engineered the reversal of a vote against compulsory military training. But after she had spent five years of apparently fruitless speaking, writing and working on nuclear arms and testing, the Vietnam war took priority. At the 1968 Peace, Power and Politics conference in Wellington, she made the first of many connections with international peace movement figures that were later to make her recognised and respected around the world.
Davies’s involvement in anti-apartheid protests had begun with the 1960 ‘No Maoris, no tour’ petition to the New Zealand Rugby Football Union. In 1981 she returned to Wellington from an International Labour Organisation conference just in time to witness the police attack on a peaceful protest in Molesworth Street, Wellington, against the Springbok rugby team tour. She gave her whole-hearted support to the protests, although she experienced difficulties with male dominance of meetings.
In 1983 Davies became the Federation of Labour’s first female vice-president. She gave up her union positions to chair the National Committee for the first United Nations International Year of Peace in 1986, which had strong government support. In 1987, she officially retired and received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Victoria University of Wellington. Davies’s lifetime of service to her country was recognised in 1988, when she became one of the inaugural recipients of the Order of New Zealand.