Blog Archives

Making women visible, Katie Pickles

A History of New Zealand Women
Barbara Brookes
Bridget Williams Books, $70.00,
ISBN 9780908321452

Locating women in history is difficult. New Zealand women are present through the occasional mention in books, official records and newspaper stories but, because they were not considered the stuff of proper historical knowledge, capturing their substance poses many challenges. Their lives, work and thoughts were deemed of secondary importance to men’s, with only a few famous women being known by name. Women’s many and varied contributions were underplayed at the time and through the years, with significant traces of them only remaining in oral traditions passed down through the generations.

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Posted in Gender, History, Non-fiction and Review

Tipping points, Sylvan Thomson

First Lady – From Boyhood to Womanhood: The Incredible Story of New Zealand’s Sex-change Pioneer 
Liz Roberts with Alison Mau
Upstart Press, $40.00, ISBN 9781927262375

Sexual Cultures in Aotearoa New Zealand Education
Alexandra C Gunn and Lee A Smith (eds)
Otago University Press, $45.00,
ISBN 9781877578687

2014 was the transgender tipping point. At least that’s what Time Magazine declared, with its front cover featuring the transgender actress Laverne Cox poised mid-step, svelte and powerful, beside the subheading “Men cannot become women. Women cannot become men”. This heading  – possibly perplexing to those unfamiliar with transgender issues – is part of the media’s growing sensitivity towards trans identities: if someone born male wants to be a woman, then they always were a woman; it is society that categorised them as a man.

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Posted in Gender, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Lessons from history, Bronwyn Labrum

Rough on Women: Abortion in 19th Century New Zealand
Margaret Sparrow
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9780864739360

Someone I follow on Twitter reported that a friend of hers had no idea that abortion is yet to be decriminalised in New Zealand. This was tweeted in the context of the debates about the 2014 general election, when issues about abortion were barely raised. Increasingly liberal practice since the late 1970s has made abortion services more widely accessible, and extremely safe. But those who were part of that social media conversation, as well as a much wider audience, deserve to read this second, much needed book from the redoubtable Margaret Sparrow, well-known for her long career in reproductive and general health and publicly recognised for her services to medicine and to the community.

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Posted in Gender, Health, History, Non-fiction, Review and Sociology

Grogzone, Charlotte Macdonald

Wanted, a Beautiful Barmaid: Women Behind the Bar in New Zealand, 1830-1976 Susan Upton Victoria University Press, $50.00, ISBN 9780864738943 Conrad Bollinger famously dubbed New Zealand “Grog’s Own Country”. It was 1957. Bollinger was writing under the dark cloud of

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A bit of fluff, Anne Else

A Woman’s Place Redmer Yska Penguin Books, $20.00, ISBN 97840143568087 A Woman’s Place is a small book in every sense. Penguin’s web page classes it as both “humour” and “gift book”. Though it does have pages and a cover, it

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Survivor stories, Christine Dann

Abortion Then and Now: New Zealand Abortion Stories from 1940 to 1980 Margaret Sparrow Victoria University Press, $40.00, ISBN 9780864736321   It was estimated in the early 20th century that a quarter of all maternal deaths in New Zealand were

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Posted in Gender, Health, History, Non-fiction and Review

Heroines needed, Dale Williams

Leading the Way: How New Zealand Women Won the Vote Megan Hutching HarperCollins, $39.99, ISBN 9781869507923 “Tis the glory of New Zealand that her sons were first to see/That there never was a free land where the women were not

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The other f-word, Rae Julian

Rethinking Women and Politics: New Zealand and Comparative Perspectives Kate McMillan, John Leslie and Elizabeth McLeay (eds) Victoria University Press, $50.00, ISBN 9780864736109 Rethinking Women and Politics is based on a series of papers prepared for a Wellington workshop in

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Posted in Gender, Non-fiction, Politics & Law and Review

Unpretty lives, Alison Gray

Trust: A True Story of Women and Gangs Pip Desmond Random House, $39.99, ISBN 9781869792435 This is a brave book in a number of ways. The women who have contributed are brave. Their stories are not pretty; their present lives

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Legions of the brave, Rhonda Pritchard

Serial Survivors: Women’s Narratives of Surviving Rape Jan Jordan The Federation Press, $49.99,  ISBN 9781862876798 It could easily be a Jimmy McGovern script. A “good husband and father of three children”, with a secret lover on the side, stalks and

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