A History of New Zealand Women by Barbara Brookes reviewed by Sheryl Reed, Hawke’s Bay Readers and Writers Trust
I was initially a little daunted by the thickness, weight and massive scope of this scholarly tome, but I found myself totally absorbed by an engaging and fascinating story of the dramatic growth of women in New Zealand society over the past 200 years.
A history brought to life, in a beautiful literary production that will be of interest to NZ women of all ages, as it charts the development of women in our society, both politically and socially. What a publication to celebrate Suffrage 125! Just look how far we’ve come! And just how much we women now take for granted.
I’m sure that many younger readers will recognise the benefits they have derived from the courage, foresight and energy of New Zealand’s earlier female generations. For example, as the author observes, “Few people now imagine their daughters will be depending on a man for their financial well-being”.
The weight of Barbara’s awardwinning book is due to the use of highquality paper, which honours the subject matter by allowing the many photos and works of art, (often in full colour), to be reproduced, brilliantly. The content is organised roughly chronologically, beginning with our country’s Ma¯ ori origins and the colonisation of New Zealand by English settlers and missionaries.
It appears that the patriarchal society of the United Kingdom did not sit well with the role of women in Ma¯ ori communities, in terms of gender equality. Professor Brookes has kept the balance by giving as much consideration to the story of Ma¯ ori women as she has to that of
Pa¯ keha¯ women.
This timely work is a remarkable achievement, massive in scope, but kept accessible with examples from the lives of individual women. If more information is desired, the content is fully referenced.
As Susanna Andrews comments in her review, “In the pages of this book you will find your mother, your grandmother, and your great-grandmother — you’ll also find Eleanor Catton, Lorde, and Mai Chen.” (Metro — Glimpses of Ourselves. 28/4/2016)
■ Barbara Brookes takes part in a session with Angela Wanhalla and Lachlan Peterson at the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival on Saturday, October 20, at 3pm at the MTG Napier. Admission $18.