Blog Archives

Bearing witness, again, Louise Wareham Leonard

That F word: Growing Up Feminist in Aotearoa
Lizzie Marvelly
HarperCollins, $35.00,
ISBN 9781775541127

There was an Empress of Austria named Elisabeth – many called her Sissi – a beauty and horsewoman and wife of Franz Joseph, and she was assassinated on 10 September 1898 by an anarchist wielding a knife so small that Elisabeth didn’t notice its cut, until she saw the blood from it, and swiftly died. As subtle as this knife is “the patriarchy” – the system of largely unspoken rules, beliefs and prejudices that arrange, in particular, women’s subjection in the world. It can be decades before any of us – of whatever gender – identify how the patriarchy has worked in our lives.

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How we got to where we are today, Michele A’Court

Risking Their Lives: New Zealand Abortion Stories 1900-1939
Margaret Sparrow
Victoria University Press, $40.00,
ISBN 9781776561636

Dear Len, I am afraid my boy friend is just another dirty rotten Aussie. I don’t think he ever had any intention of doing anything to help me … he’s all gas and wind … I haven’t any right to ask you to do this for me but would you go and see that Chemist who you said might do it and ask how much he charges … I will be grateful to you all my life and will never forget how straight and swell you are … Cheerio. Joan.

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Bustling energy, Kate Hunter

Make Her Praises Heard Afar: New Zealand Women Overseas in World War One
Jane Tolerton
Booklovers Press, $60.00,
ISBN 9780473399658

As many scholars have observed, it is very difficult to write a history of women and war. Not only is war regarded culturally as men’s domain, but capturing women’s stories is beset by methodological difficulties.

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Posted in Gender, History, Non-fiction, Review, War

Getting the archive to the people, Matariki Williams

He Reo Wāhine: Māori Women’s Voices from the Nineteenth Century
Lachy Paterson and Angela Wanhalla
Auckland University Press, $50.00,
ISBN 9781869408664

This book is weighty with expectation, what unfolds within its covers being immediately problematised by the title, He Reo Wāhine: Māori Women’s Voices from the Nineteenth Century. The title is a subtle nod to the reality that the “voices” the book is highlighting have yet to be heard in broad New Zealand histories.

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Posted in Gender, History, Māori, Non-fiction, Review

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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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, 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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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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