Breadcrumb navigation

Read this month: top NZ women’s heritage books

Published: 1 October 2018

It’s the start of heritage month and Auckland Heritage Festival has officially kicked off!

To celebrate this year’s festival’s theme – Ngā iwi o Tāmaki Makaurau, Celebrating the heritage of our people – and 125 years of women’s suffrage, we’ve put together a list of the ten top books about women of our history.

  1. Leading the way

Historian Megan Hutching tells the story of the 1893 vote, including profiles of some of the women who brought about such a massive social upheaval by changing the minds and hearts of politicians.

  1. Polly Plum

One of New Zealand's earliest feminists, Mary Ann Colclough, quickly gained notoriety for her outspokenness on women’s position in society, and was a prolific writer on the topic under the name of “Polly Plum”. Now author Jenny Coleman brings Mary Ann’s journey to life and reclaims her place in New Zealand female heritage.

  1. A history of New Zealand women

Barbara Lesley Brookes weaves a narrative account of New Zealand’s past through the lenses of the women of Aotearoa. Her lively chronicle draws on a wide variety of sources to depict women of all ways and walks of life – women who spoke out against government incursion on Māori land, women who worked on farms during the Second World War, women who painted and wove, sang and wrote.

  1. The women’s war

‘The women’s war’ recounts the changing face of women’s lives in New Zealand during the Second World War; pulling on examples from real lives and exploring the ambiguities of wartime changes in the public and private lives of New Zealand women.

  1. Memé: the three worlds of an Italian-Chinese New Zealander

The biography of Italian-Chinese Memé’s arrival in New Zealand and adjustment to the curiously old-fashioned way of life in 1950s Auckland. Memé's account offers rich insights into New Zealand social history and entertaining stories about the colourful people she encountered.

  1. Ettie Rout

Armed with a wicked sense of humour and boundless energy, Ettie Rout proved the case for safer sex decades before the term was coined. This book celebrates her internationally renowned work waging a successful public health crusade.

  1. The time of our lives

A historical collection of 10 women’s stories about their education in 1950s New Zealand. Created from interviews and first-hand accounts, these stories illustrate how different life was for girls back then and how the world has changed.  

  1. Anzac girls

Peter Rees takes us to the hospital camps next to some of the horrific battlefronts of human history. Profoundly moving, this story of humanity shows a group of women whose contribution to the Anzac legend has barely been recognized in our history.

  1. With a suitcase of saris: from India to Aotearoa

Discover the stories of some of the first Indian women to immigrate to New Zealand, from the mouths of their own daughters and granddaughters. The women left the warmth of close-knit communities to journey to isolated islands in the Pacific with little but a suitcase of saris, and these evocative tales celebrate and honour their journeys.

  1. Elizabeth Yates

Over 100 years ago, Elizabeth Yates became the first lady mayor of Onehunga, Auckland, and with it, the first elected woman in the British Empire. Her time at the helm of leadership reveals a significant episode in our history and the struggles for equality.

Find out more information on these books and borrow them for free. If your chosen book isn’t available, check out more book lists here.

Auckland Heritage Festival 2018 celebrates our unique heritage with over 200 events across Auckland from 29 September to 14 October. Visit heritagefestival.co.nz for the full Auckland Heritage Festival programme.