A His­tory of New Zealand Women by Bar­bara Brookes re­viewed by Sh­eryl Reed, Hawke’s Bay Read­ers and Writ­ers Trust

Hastings Leader - - Front Page -

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.

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