THE MOTHER OF NEW ZEALAND BOTANY
Dr. Lucy Beatrice Moore MBE FRSNZ
1906 - 1987
Known as ‘the mother of New Zealand botany’, Lucy was a pioneer in botanical research. She tramped into remote parts of New Zealand to carry out ground-breaking plant research. Conditions were rough; Lucy’s sleeping bag was an unlined canvas sack and her tent was a flysheet draped over branches. She grew up near Warkworth, boarded at Epsom Girls’ Grammar and, in 1929, graduated with a Master of Science with first class honours. Lucy’s often highly-original research was internationally acclaimed but she was unsuccessful in securing a university teaching position because she was a woman.
In 1938, Lucy was appointed to the botany division of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) in Wellington where she worked for 33 years. She studied weeds, seaweeds, high country plants and made outstanding contributions to the first two volumes of the Flora of New Zealand series.
During World War II, imports of Japanese agar ceased. Agar was essential for medical research and Lucy was asked to find seaweed that could be used to manufacture it in New Zealand. She discovered a variety on the East Cape and arranged a for school children to collect the seaweed for pocket money.
Lucy became a Fellow of the Royal Society Te Apārangi in 1947 and, in 1965, was the first woman to win the Hutton Medal for outstanding services to systemic and applied botany in New Zealand.
She was also awarded a Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE), a Doctorate of Science and the Marsden Medal for services to science.
“Few botanists may ever again equal her range of expertise... inspired by a vision, and practised with dedication.” - John Morton
John Morton. 'Moore, Lucy Beatrice', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2010. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/5m55/moore-lucy-beatrice
FIRST LADY OF RADIO
Maud Ruby Basham MBE
1879 - 1963
For three decades from 1933 Aunt Daisy was New Zealand’s best known and most respected radio broadcaster. Each weekday morning at 9am her signature tune, Daisy Bell, and her energetic “Good morning, good morning, good morning everybody” greeted her listeners. For 30 minutes she would talk, unscripted – at a dazzling 200 words per minute – providing recipes, household hints, and comments on films, concerts and even the Dean’s Sunday Sermon. She would only advertise products she had used and a product mentioned in the morning was likely to sell out by mid-afternoon.
Daisy grew up in Victorian London and was 12 when her widowed mother moved the family to New Plymouth. She trained in singing and as a teacher then, in the late 1920s, with the support of her husband, Fred, Daisy began writing and broadcasting pieces on composers. She became Aunt Daisy after taking over the children’s session on 1YA and then moved to her own slot on 1ZB in 1933. During World War II she reported on the lives of women living on military bases. In 1944, she visited the US and, over tea with Eleanor Roosevelt, passed on messages from American personnel stationed in New Zealand. Aunt Daisy published a dozen recipe and hints books and her cookbook was in its 22nd reprint in 2010.
She was awarded Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1956 for services to broadcasting. Her vitality, charisma, strength and resilience made her seem ageless and many were shocked to learn she was 83 when she died, just a few days after her final broadcast.
1998. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4b11/basham-maud-ruby
Ruia Mereana Morrison-Davey MBE
Te Arawa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa
Regarded as one of New Zealand’s best tennis players, Ruia won 13 senior national titles and was the first New Zealand woman to play at Wimbledon, reaching the quarter-finals in 1957 and making the final 16 in 1958, 1959 and 1960. At her peak she was ranked ninth in the world.
Ruia was born in Tikitere, the third child of Hingawaka (Waki) Morrison and Tanira Kingi. By age eight, she was playing on dirt courts with a bat her father had made. After her first racquet broke because she hit the ball so hard, she played with her father’s full sized racquet. On leaving Queen Victoria School for Girls, Ruia enrolled at Auckland Teachers' College, though her study was frequently interrupted by major tennis tournaments.
Ruia was only 1.54m tall but was an aggressive player with a strong forehand and a near perfect volley. In the 1950s there was little media interest in women’s tennis but Ruia, with her charm, sparkling personality and excellent all-round game, single-handedly lifted the profile of women’s tennis in New Zealand.
When the New Zealand Lawn Tennis Association refused to give her financial support to go to Wimbledon, the Ruia Morrison Wimbledon Fund Committee was established and raised the money for her fare and expenses, first through Māori tribal communities and then through a nationwide appeal.
Ruia was made a Member of the British Empire in 1960 for services to Māori people and New Zealand tennis. Ruia retired from tennis in 1982 after a 30-year competitive playing career.
"Everybody's got gifts, it's the passion with which you use them that counts."- Ruia Morrison
More to watch
Māori and tennis: acing it at 80 https://teara.govt.nz/en/video/41484/ruia-morrison
Standing in the sunshine - a history of New Zealand women since they won the vote by Sandra Coney (Penguin Books NZ Ltd, 1993)
Michael Romanos, Ruia Morrison, Tu Tangata (July 1986)
Basil Keane, 'Māori and sport – hākinakina - Māori and sport from the late 20th century', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/video/41484/ruia-morrison
NEW ZEALAND’S FIRST WOMAN LAWYER
Ethel Rebecca Benjamin
When she started law school at the University of Otago in 1893, Ethel did not know if she would be allowed to practise when she graduated. The law was changed in 1896 to allow women to practise law. Ethel graduated in 1897 with outstanding marks, becoming New Zealand’s first woman lawyer and the second woman in the British Empire to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor. While her fellow classmates at university had accepted her, the Otago District Law Society did not. It restricted her use of the society’s library, declined her usual new graduate support and excluded her from their annual dinner.
Ethel was an astute businesswoman and ran a successful law practice in Dunedin for 10 years. Her clients were from the local Jewish community and independently wealthy women. She also worked with the local hotel industry and was one of the few advocates of women’s rights who did not support the temperance movement. Ethel was a founding member of the Dunedin Society for the Protection of Women and Children and was the society’s honorary lawyer helping women deal with abusive relationships and divorce.
Following her marriage to Alfred De Costa in 1907 she moved first to Wellington then to England. She died in 1943 following an accident.
On the centenary of Ethel’s graduation, the Law Foundation established the Ethel Benjamin Scholarship which provides $50,000 a year, to two outstanding New Zealand women law graduates, for post-graduate study overseas.
“When I heard that being a woman, I could not be admitted to the practise of law, I was very indignant... and I grew all the more determined to follow the legal profession” - Ethel Benjamin
More to Read:
In the Footsteps of Ethel Benjamin: New Zealand's First Woman Lawyer by Janet November (Victoria University Press, 2009)
Carol Brown. 'Benjamin, Ethel Rebecca', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2010. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2b18/benjamin-ethel-rebecca
CHILDREN’S FICTION WRITER
Cassia Joy Cowley ONZ DCNZM OBE
Widely published and much celebrated, Joy is best known for her children’s books. She is a creative and inspiring storyteller and, worldwide, generations of children have learned to love reading with her popular characterslike Mrs Wishy Washy and Dan the Flying Man, and timeless tales like Bow Down Shadrach (1991) and The Road to Ratenburg (2016).
As a schoolgirl, Joy edited the children’s page of the local paper and, in the early 1960s, she began writing short stories, submitting 29 stories before the NZ Listener accepted one for publication. Her first book was for adults, Nest in a Falling Tree (1967), and was made into the movie The Night Digger, directed by Roald Dahl.
In the mid-1960s Joy began writing stories for her son, Edward, who, like her, had difficulty learning to read. In the late 1970s she wrote the first of hundreds of stories for Wendy Pye’s StoryBox reading program.
Joy wants children to see themselves and their own culture in the stories they read and, for 30 years, she has run writing workshops for people whose cultures do not feature in their children’s books.
Joy’s books have received national and international awards and, in 2005, she was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. She has twice been nominated for the Hans Christian Anderson Award and, in 2018, Joy was made a member of the Order of New Zealand.
Now in her early 80s, Joy has 13 grandchildren and is still writing full time.
“The day I’m no longer in touch with young people, is the day I stop writing for them, because the energy flows from them and goes back to them” – Joy Cowley
More to read
Navigation: A Memoir, by Joy Cowley. Penguin 2010
The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, Edited by Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie. Oxford University Press, 1998
DAME RANGIMĀRIE HETET
TOHUNGA RARANGA (MASTER WEAVER)
Dame Rangimārie Hetet DBE
1892 - 1995
Ngāti Kinohaku, Ngāti Maniapoto
Her passion for teaching revitalised the art of traditional Māori weaving, and Dame Rangimārie became the finest Māori weaver of the 20th century. Her works are exquisite pieces of feather and fibre art and she used only natural materials. Dame Rangimārie’s work is notable for its fine, meticulous weaving and innovative design and she could spend 450 hours completing one korowai (cloak).
Dame Rangimārie was born at Oparure in the King Country. Her father, Charles Wilson Hursthouse, was a surveyor and she was taught the art of traditional weaving by her mother, Mere Te Rongopāmamao Aubrey.
She left Oparure after her marriage to Tuheka Taonui Hetet but returned in 1948. She was a founding member of the Māori Women’s Welfare League and, with her daughter and protégée, Diggeress Te Kanawa, agreed to teach traditional Māori weaving on the condition she could teach all who wanted to learn, rather than the customary rule of only teaching women from her own tribe.
By the 1960s, Dame Rangimārie was nationally known as a specialist in korowai weaving and, during mid-1970s, she began exhibiting internationally.
Dame Rangimārie was highly organised, constantly active and stubbornly independent. She continued weaving until she died, aged 103, outliving three of her children and is survived by over 100 descendants.
Dame Rangimārie received a doctorate from the University of Waikato in 1986 and was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1992 for services to Māori arts and crafts. The Waikato Museum is the kaitiaki (guardian) of her work.
“I let it be known I was prepared to teach anybody who wanted to learn” - Dame Rangimārie Hetet
Standing in the Sunshine-A history of New Zealand Women since they won the vote by Sandra Coney (Penguin Books NZ Ltd, 1993)
Celebrating Women - New Zealand Women and their Stories by Mediawomen of New Zealand (Cape Catley Ltd, 1984)
AVIATOR, ‘GARBO OF THE SKIES’
Jane Gardner Batten
1909 - 1982
During the 1930s flying was the most dangerous and exciting activity on earth and Jean was the finest female pilot of this golden age of aviation. She was the first woman to fly solo England to Australia and return, to fly across the Atlantic, and to fly from England to New Zealand. Jean was the most famous New Zealander of the time and her arrival at Mangere airport at the end of her 1936 record-breaking solo flight from England created Auckland’s biggest traffic jam.
She was born in Rotorua and went to England in 1930 to become a pianist but chose to sell her piano to fund flying lessons.
Jean was adventurous, glamorous and utterly fearless. She took huge risks, flew in dangerous weather and was an exceptional navigator. Her transatlantic flight of 1900 miles from West Africa to Brazil was a brilliant 13-hour feat of navigation through storms, armed with just a watch and compass which failed.
Jean carried minimal luggage but always disembarked looking immaculate in her white flying suit, with lipstick and cologne carefully applied.
Fame did not bring her happiness. Jean had a reputation for using men to aid her ambitions and several of her close friends were killed in flying accidents. Her intense relationship with her driven mother isolated her and, after Jean’s mother died, she became a recluse and died alone in 1982. At the time, her body was unidentified and buried in a pauper’s grave in Majorca.
More to read
The Infinite Air by Fiona Kidman (Random House, 2013)
SELINA TUSITALA MARSH
POET AND SCHOLAR
New Zealand Poet Laureate 2017-19
Dr. Selina Tusitala Marsh
Of Samoan, Tuvaluan, English, Scottish and French ancestry, Selina was the first student of Pasifika descent to graduate from the University of Auckland with a PhD in English. She is New Zealand’s current Poet Laureate and a mesmerising performance poet with the gift of making poetry accessible to all.
Growing up in Avondale, Selina would spend her weekly pocket money on a carton full books from the local op shop, reading everything from cookbooks to Boys Own Annual and Treasure Island. She now lives on Waiheke Island and is an associate professor in creative writing and Māori and Pacific literature at the University of Auckland.
Selena’s energetic, dramatic poems are infused with hip hop, staccato rhythms. Her signature poem, Fast Talking PI, has cult status with teenagers who clap, stomp and cheer during her 14-minute performances of the work and offer her their own variations at the end.
Writer Albert Wendt described Selina as one of the most gifted and influential members of the new generation of poets from Aotearoa and the Pacific. In 2012, Selina represented Tuvalu at the Poetry Olympics in London and, in 2016, as Commonwealth Poet she performed Unity for the Queen at Westminster Abby.
Selina has published three collections of poems, is currently writing a book on the first wave of Pasifika women poets and has been commissioned to write the Sir Edmund Hillary centenary poem for 2019.
“How did you memorise it all?
I’m a poet, Your Majesty, it’s my job.
Yes, yes I suppose it is”
From HRH Elizabeth II by Selina Tusitala Marsh
in The Tightrope Collection (2017)
NOVELIST. SHORT STORY WRITER. ESSAYIST. POET
Nene Janet Paterson Clutha ONZ CBE
1924 – 2004
Nene Janet Paterson Clutha published under the name Janet Frame and became one of New Zealand’s most distinguished and celebrated writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry.
Born in Dunedin, Janet grew up in Oamaru. In 1945, she was admitted to Seacliff Lunatic Asylum following an emotional breakdown where she was diagnosed as schizophrenic and treated with electroconvulsive therapy. In 1951, while still at Seacliff, Janet’s first volume of short stories, The Lagoon and Other Stories, was published and it was awarded New Zealand’s only literary prize just days before she was to have a lobotomy. The operation, which would have left her unable to write, was immediately cancelled.
Janet moved to London in 1956. Her new psychiatrist told her she was not mentally ill and had been misdiagnosed. He encouraged her to keep writing and the next seven years were her most productive. Many found her writing difficult to read and her narrative style was ahead of its time. In 1964, Janet returned to New Zealand and, during the 1980s, she wrote her autobiography, partly to ‘set the record straight’ about her decade in mental institutions.
Janet was awarded several honorary doctorates and medals, including a CBE for her services to literature. In 1990, she became the 16th appointee to New Zealand’s highest honour, The Order of New Zealand and was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature. Yet all her life Janet remained a very private person, untouched by the idea that she was a genius and a world renowned author.
More to Read:
To The Is-Land (1982), Janet’s autobiography Volume 1
An Angel at My Table (1984) autobiography Volume 2
The Envoy from Mirror City (1985) autobiography Volume 3
More to Watch:
An Angel at My Table - 1990 film directed by Jane Campion
WWII SECRET AGENT “THE WHITE MOUSE”
Nancy Grace Augusta Wake AC, GM
Feisty and courageous Nancy became a fearless WWII Secret Agent. Born in Wellington Nancy moved to Australia with her family as a child. When she was 16 she ran away from home. Using a gift from her New Zealand aunt, she travelled to America and on to Europe, where she worked as newspaper correspondent. In 1939, Nancy married wealthy French industrialist Henri Fiocca, and was living a luxurious life in Marseille when Germany invaded France the following year.
Nancy joined the Resistance and helped more than a thousand escaped prisoners of war and downed Allied airmen reach the safety of Spain. Nancy was so skilled at evading the Gestapo that they nicknamed her “The White Mouse.” By 1943, she was at the top of the Gestapo’s ‘most wanted’ list. Five million francs were offered for her capture. In 1944 Nancy escaped to England and became a Special Operations Executive agent. She parachuted back into central France and led an army of 7,000 resistance fighters in guerrilla warfare against the Nazis. At the age of 89 she claimed she had never been afraid in her life. Once, when her wireless radio was broken, she cycled almost 400 km in three days through German territory, to deliver the message.
Immediately after the war Nancy’s heroic achievements were recognised by Britain, France and the Unites States. She became one of the most highly decorated women of WW II. However, it was not until 2006 that the New Zealand Returned Services Association awarded Nancy their highest honour, the RSA Badge in Gold, at last recognising her wartime work with the French resistance.
Though away from New Zealand for 80 years, Nancy retained her New Zealand passport and considered herself a kiwi. She died in London, aged 98 and as requested her ashes were scattered near the village of Verneix in central France.
A resistance comrade described Nancy as the “… most feminine woman I know, until the fighting starts. Then, she is like five men.”
More to Read:
The White Mouse by Nancy Wake, Pan Macmillan, 1985)
DAME SILVIA CARTWRIGHT
DISTINGUISHED JURIST AND GOVERNOR GENERAL
The Honourable Dame Silvia Rose Cartwright PCNZM DBE QSO DStJ
Dame Silvia is one of New Zealand's most distinguished woman jurists whose intellect and compassion have won her international respect. When she graduated from the University of Otago’s law school in 1967, law firms were reluctant to employ women. Eventually she was offered a job and quickly earned the respect of her colleagues but her requests for equal pay were repeatedly declined.
Throughout her career Dame Silvia has worked to eliminate discrimination against women. In 1988, she led the Cartwright Inquiry into cervical cancer treatment at Auckland's National Women's Hospital. Her report recommended the appointment of a Health and Disability Commissioner and was the catalyst for widespread changes in all aspects health consumer rights. The following year she was made a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her services to women.
Dame Silvia was appointed as New Zealand’s first female Chief District Court Judge and High Court Judge. In 2001,she became New Zealand’s second female Governor General. Dame Silvia broke with convention and spoke out on issues such as prison reform and child abuse. She described her sometimes controversial five-year term as ‘all consuming’.
In 2007, Dame Silvia moved to Phnom Penh following her appointment as an international judge on the Cambodian War Crimes Tribunal. She regarded her seven years on the tribunal as her greatest professional challenge. In 2015, she moved to the High Commission of Human Rights in Geneva to advise on an investigation into human rights abuses during the civil war in Sri Lanka.
“She is an ordinary woman who has done extraordinary things, through kindness, truth and virtue.” - Dame Sian Elias
MODERNIST SHORT STORY WRITER
Kathleen Mansfield Murry
Her writing revolutionised the 20th Century short story and at the time of her early death, Katherine had already built an international reputation based on just three volumes of short stories.
Katherine grew up in Wellington and finished her schooling in London. On returning to New Zealand she rebelled against the restricted, conventional life of her socially-prominent family and, at 20, left New Zealand permanently.
In Europe, she lived a libertine, bohemian life and was a friend of writers D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf. Virginia said: "I was jealous of her writing—the only writing I have ever been jealous of”. Katherine’s experiences alone in Germany following a miscarriage formed the basis of her first published short story collection, In a German Pension (1911). After her beloved brother was killed in World War I, her stories were often nostalgic recreations of the New Zealand childhood they had shared.
In 1916, Katherine met Middleton Murry. Their relationship was one of frequent acrimonious partings followed by reconciliations. They eventually married in 1918.
In 1917, Katherine was diagnosed with tuberculosis and moved to the south of France. This was her most prolific period of writing and she published her second collection of stories, Bliss, in 1920, and The Garden Party in 1922.
In 1922, disillusioned with conventional medicine, Katherine entered the Gurdjieff Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at Fontainebleau-Avon where she died the following year. After her death, Middleton Murry published two further volumes of Katherine’s short stories together with her letters and notebooks.
“Risk, risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others…Act for yourself’.”
- Katherine Mansfield
More to Read:
Bliss and Other Stories (1918)
NEW ZEALAND’S FIRST ELECTED FEMALE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
Elizabeth (Bessie) Reid McCombs
In 1933, following the death of her husband, Labour MP James McCombs, 60 year old Elizabeth became New Zealand’s first female elected Member of Parliament. Many in the Labour party objected to her standing in the Lyttleton that James had held for 20 years, but she won it with a much increased majority.
Elizabeth and James married in 1903 and were both committed socialists who had dreams of being in parliament together. In 1916, James became the first Labour Party president and Elizabeth was elected to the party’s executive. She was the second woman elected to the Christchurch City Council in the early 1920s.
Elizabeth spent a lifetime campaigning for women. She was a founding member of the National Council of Women of New Zealand, local president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and one of the founders of the first free kindergarten in Christchurch.
In parliament, Elizabeth fought to improve the welfare system and ensure better pay and working conditions for women. She also worked to increase the number of women in the police force. Though respected by her colleagues for her hard work, clear thinking, sympathetic understanding and singlemindedness, the newspapers of the time frequently called ‘Jimmy’s wife’ and on her first day in parliament they devoted columns to the fact that she had refused to wear a hat!
In 1935, she was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal but worsening health took its toll and she died later that year.
‘By her outstanding ability, both in the House and out, she made a very effective reply to those who maintained that women are not the equals of men, either in local or national government”.
- Michael Joseph Savage
Coney, Sandra: Standing in the Sunshine-A history of New Zealand Women since they won the vote. Penguin Books NZ Ltd, 1993
DAME VALERIE ADAMS
OLYMPIAN SHOT PUTTER
Dame Valerie Kasanita Adams DNZM
Dame Valerie is New Zealand’s greatest female track and field athlete. Just six months after the birth of her daughter, Kimoana, Dame Valerie stood on the podium at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, adding a silver Commonwealth shot put medal to her three Olympic (two gold), four Commonwealth (three gold), four World Outdoor and three World Indoor championship medals. In 2014, she was named World Indoor International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Athlete of the Year – the first New Zealander to win the award.
Born in Rotorua of Tongan and English decent, Dame Valerie was breaking regional junior records by the age of 13. As a young teen she met former javelin thrower Kirsten Hellier, who coached her for the next 11 years.
Dame Valerie was only 15 when she took three months off school to care for her dying mother. Together they watched the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Drawing inspiration from her late mother, Dame Valerie won the World Junior Championship the following year. Her first Olympics were in Athens in 2004 where she came seventh while still recovering from having her appendix out. Dame Valerie won her first Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008. This was New Zealand’s first track and field gold medal in 32 years.
Dame Valerie was New Zealand Sportswoman of the Year every year between 2006 and 2012, and won the Halberg Supreme Award three consecutive times from 2008. In 2017, she was made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DNZM).
“I could never see myself coming back after having a baby…I hope this inspires other mothers around the world…to do something active and healthy and live your dream.”
– Dame Valerie Adams
SOIL SCIENTIST AND SCULPTOR
Elsa Beatrice Kidson FRIC FNZIC FRSNZ
Elsa gained international recognition during the 1930s and 40’s for her ground-breaking research into cobalt and magnesium levels in plants and soil and she proved that cobalt deficiency was the cause of a common wasting disease in sheep and cattle. During WWII there was a severe shortage of citrus fruit and Elsa developed a method of fortifying apple juice and jam with a vitamin C powder made from Central Otago rosehips.
Her father died when she was three and Elsa and her three young brothers were raised in Nelson by her hardworking mother, Kittie, and her paternal grandfather. At Nelson College for Girls, Elsa won a scholarship to study at Canterbury College (now the University of Canterbury). In 1927, she graduated with a Master of Science degree with honours in organic chemistry and, over the next 30 years, published more than 44 scientific papers.
In 1952, the University of New Zealand awarded her a Doctorate of Science recognising her 17 years of soil science research. Elsa was the first female Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry and first elected female Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chemistry. In 1963, she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand (now the Royal Society Te Apārangi).
Elsa was also a skilled swordswoman and talented photographer. When she retired she studied sculpture at London’s Wimbledon School of Art and became well known for her life-sized sculptures of children’s heads.
Carol Markwell. 'Kidson, Elsa Beatrice', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2010. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4k13/kidson-elsa-beatrice
GREAT NGĀTI POROU CHIEFTAINESS
c1750 - c1821
It is said that when she was a young woman Hinematioro saw Captain James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour arrive at Ūawa (Tolaga Bay) in October, 1769. Hinematioro was a great chieftainess of the Ngāti Porou people. She spent most of her life in the Ūawa-Whangara district amongst the hapu Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti and Ngāti Konohi.
Her father, Tanetokorangi was a grandson to Konohi of Whangara and her mother Ngunguruterangi, was a great granddaughter of Rerekohu. Hinematioro was also the grandmother of the Ngāti Porou chief, Te Kani-a-Takirau.
Hinematioro was known for her kindness, hospitality and wise decisions. Such was her mana that she was fed the very best food and often carried on a litter by her people. The early missionaries described her as a 'great Queen' possessing a large territory and numerous subjects.
In about 1821, Hinematioro’s island fortress pā, Pourewa (Spooring Island, at Cook’s Cove), was attacked by a combined Tokomaru-Tūranga war party in the battle known as Paruparuwhatete. During the night Hinematioro left the pā on a waka, which capsized and she was drowned. Whangara elders believe her body was found and is buried at Te Ana-a-Paikea (Whangara Island).
Angela Ballara. 'Hinematioro', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1h23/hinematioro (accessed 24 February 2018)
DAME LYNLEY DODD
CHILDREN’S AUTHOR AND CREATOR OF HAIRY MACLARY
Dame Lynley Stuart Dodd DNZM
When she sent her scruffy little canine creation off on his first adventure to Donaldson’s Dairy in 1983, Lynley had no idea that 27 more Hairy Maclary adventures would follow. She is internationally celebrated for her combination of humorous illustrations and memorable, alliterative rhyme that children and adults love to read aloud. Hairy Maclary and his gang of furry and feathered friends are now some of the most loved characters in New Zealand writing .
As a child, Lynley was a voracious reader and a big fan of Dr. Seuss. She grew up in a quiet rural area near Taupo – an environment that encouraged her imagination. She gained a Diploma of Fine Arts from the Elam School of Fine Arts and in 1973, Lynley illustrated Eva Sutton’s book My Cat likes to Hide in Boxes.Shortly after she wrote and illustrated The Nickle Nackle Tree. Forty titles followed. Neighbourhood pets inspired her characters; Whooskers, an ex SPCA cat became Slinki Malinki; Scarface Claw was modelled on a battered local cat called Squib.
She thinks adults often underestimate the skill involved in writing for children and Lynley may redraft a story 25 times before she is happy. Reviewers often try to find deeper meaning in her books but Lynley
says she is ‘out to entertain, pure and simple’.
In 1999, Lynley was awarded the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal, New Zealand’s most prestigious honour for children’s authors, illustrators and publishers and in 2001 she was made a Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DCNZM) for her services to Children’s literature.
“A good picture book has the power to pull children away from their devices.” - Dame Lynley Dodd
DAME KIRI TE KANAWA
Dame Kiri Janette Te Kanawa ONZ DBE AC
Her 1971 role as the countess in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro launched Dame Kiri’s stellar 45-year international operatic career. She initially trained in operatic singing with Dame Sister Mary Leo at St Mary’s College in Auckland. Dame Kiri’s recording of The Nun’s Chorus became New Zealand’s first gold-selling record.
In the mid-sixties, Dame Kiri won the New Zealand Mobil Song Quest and the Melbourne Sun Aria contest and moved to London to study at the London Opera Centre. Dame Kiri most often played the roles of princesses and nobility in the operas of Strauss, Mozart, Verdi, Handel and Puccini.
More than 600 million people heard her sing Handel’s Let the Bright Seraphim at the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. Dame Kiri never performed the work again following Diana’s death in 1997.
Later in her career, Dame Kiri often included songs such as Pōkarekare Ana and Hine e Hine in her concert programs. She announced her retirement in 2017.
Dame Kiri now trains dedicated, talented young New Zealand singers through the Dame Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, helping them develop international careers at the highest levels.
In 1982, Dame Kiri was appointed a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her services to opera and, in 1995, she was appointed to the Order of New Zealand.
“I couldn’t believe my ears. I’ve taken thousands of auditions, but it was such a fantastically beautiful voice.”
- Colin David, Conductor
NZ’S FIRST WOMAN TELEVISION PRESENTER
Alma Rae Johnson
In 1960 television was new to New Zealand. Reception was poor, and the black and white programs ran for just three hours a day, three nights a week. In 1961 Alma became the first woman presenter on New Zealand television, working as a continuity announcer. Alma said her job was to sit at a desk and act as a hostess, saying “Good evening and welcome to tonight’s program,” in very formal English.
By the mid 1960’s Alma was a household name, but she always thought of herself as a public servant and certainly not as a celebrity. People would stop her in the street and give advice on how she should dress on screen. Hair was very important - and bouffant was the style of the day. Alma’s hair was indeed very bouffant. She continued working as television presenter through the 1960’s and 70’s. Alma was also a highly respected speech and drama teacher and she continued to teach with enthusiasm and passion into her final years.
Frances Mary Hodgkins
1869 – 1947
With a professional painting career spanning more than 50 years, Frances is considered one of the outstanding artists of her generation. Growing up in Dunedin, her father William was an accomplished landscape painter. Both Frances and her elder sister Isabel inherited their father’s artistic talents and painting and exhibiting were a normal part of their family life.
In 1901 Frances left New Zealand and studied, travelled, painted and exhibited in England and Europe. She held her first solo exhibition in London in 1907 and then moved to Paris for four years. There she was influenced by the impressionists and the post impressionists. In 1910 she was the first woman to teach at the Académie Colarossi. The following year she started her own successful School for Water Colour. Frances returned briefly New Zealand to exhibit her work, but left permanently in 1913. When Frances was in her late 60’s her work became more abstract and incorporated modernist ideas and she became established with a group of progressive young painters in England. By the end of her career she was a key figure in British Modernism.
The peak of her career was a Frances Hodgkins retrospective held at the Lefevre Gallery in November 1946. The exhibition included 64 paintings and 17 drawings produced between 1902 and 1946.
Frances prized her independence and was single-mindedly devoted to her career. Her courage and dedication have inspired many emerging artists. The London Press described Frances as one of the most remarkable women painters of all time.
Linda Gill. 'Hodgkins, Frances Mary', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2h41/hodgkins-frances-mary (accessed 21 January 2018)
DAME JANE CAMPION
SCREENWRITER. PRODUCER. DIRECTOR
Dame Elizabeth Jane Campion DNZM
Following a childhood immersed in the New Zealand theatre world of her parents, Dame Jane initially chose to study Anthropology at Victoria University and art at the Chelsea Art School. In the early 1980’s she became frustrated with the creative limitations of painting and began four years of study at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School.
Dame Jane is now one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed film makers, having made some of cinema’s strangest and strongest films. Often they are dreamily surrealistic and mental illness is a recurring theme. Many of her films are immersed in the everyday experiences of women.
Dame Jane’s first feature film was Sweetie (1989). The following year she portrayed the New Zealand writer Janet Frame in the highly acclaimed Angel at my Table. But it was with The Piano (1993) that Dame Jane gained global recognition when she became the first woman director to be awarded the Palme D’or at the Cannes Film Festival. The Piano also won an Oscar for Best Original Screen play and Dame Jane was nominated for Best Director.
In recent years Dame Jane has moved from film to television, writing and directing the highly acclaimed mini-series Top of the Lake. She feels television now offers her more creative freedom than film.
Twenty five years on, no other woman film director has received the Palme D’or and Dame Jane is one of only five women ever nominated for an Oscar for Best Director. In 2013, the French Film Directors' Society awarded Dame Jane the Carrosse d'Or, recognising her “innovative qualities, courage and independent-mindedness in directing." In 2016, she was appointed a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to film.
“Jane Campion has never made an uninteresting or unchallenging film … The Piano is as peculiar and haunting as any film I've seen.”
- American critic Roger Ebert, November 1993
MERI TE TAI MANGAKAHIA
WOMAN OF MANA AND SUFFRAGIST
Meri Te Tai Mangakahia
1868 – 1920
Meri Te Tai was a descendant of Te Rarawa chiefs of the highest mana from Waihou, northern Hokianga. She went to school at St Mary’s Convent in Auckland and later married Hamoria Mangakahia, of Ngāti Whanaunga from Whangapoua, Coromandel. He was involved with the Kotahitanga Māori parliamentary movement.
Meri Te Tai was on a committee formed by the wives of the Kotahitanga leaders. In May 1883 she became the first woman to speak to the Kotahitanga parliament, requesting the right for women to vote and to be members of the parliament. Meri Te Tai was concerned that under colonial law, Māori women landowners were losing their rights to inherit and manage their lands. She believed the appeals of the chiefs to Queen Victoria to protect Māori lands had not helped Māori women. Meri Te Tai felt the Queen would be more likely to listen to requests from women.
In 1897 Māori women won the right to vote in the Kotahitanga Parliamentary elections.
Meri Te Tai continued to be active in Māori politics welfare. She started a column named Te Reiri Karamu (‘The Ladies’ Column’) in partnership with Niniwa i te Rangi of Wairarapa. The articles and letters published in the column show Māori women robustly debating women’s issues. Meri Te Tai is remembered as a suffragist who inspired future generations of Māori women. She died of influenza in 1920 and is buried at the Pureirei cemetery, Lower Waihou, near her father.
Coney, Sandra: Standing in the Sunshine-A history of New Zealand Women since they won the vote. Penguin Books NZ Ltd, 1993
Angela Ballara. 'Mangakahia, Meri Te Tai Te Tai', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1993. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2m30/mangakahia-Meri Te Tai -te-tai (accessed 7 March 2018)
'Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia, advocate for Māori women ', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/so-that-women-can-get-the-vote, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 7-Mar-2018
DAME NGAIO MARSH
"QUEEN OF CRIME"
Dame Edith Ngaio Marsh DCBE
1895 – 1982
Recognised worldwide as one of the original four “Queens of Crime”, Dame Ngaio dominated the golden age of crime fiction writing in the 1920’s and 30’s and became one of New Zealand’s most successful authors.
As well as writing crime novels, Dame Ngaio also wrote short stories, drama scripts and non-fiction. But she wasn’t just a writer- she was also a theatre producer, a painter and a critic.
Dame Ngaio was a very tall, imposing figure and she often wore dramatically styled designer clothes. She had a distinctive, deep voice and spoke with a particularly ‘cultured accent’- Dame Ngaio never really liked the New Zealand accent!
After studying art at the University of Canterbury she toured with theatre companies before writing her first “whodunit” in 1931. Dame Ngaio went on to write 32 detective novels centred on the character of Roderick Alleyn, a gentleman detective working for the London Metropolitan Police. Millions of copies of her novels have been sold and her books are still in print today.
In the 1940’s Dame Ngaio returned to the theatre and with her imaginative, meticulous, autocratic style she directed over 20 full scale Shakespearean productions with the Drama Society in Christchurch.
Dame Ngaio never stopped writing and she published her final detective novel in 1982, just before her death at the age of 87.
Jane Stafford. 'Marsh, Edith Ngaio', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1998. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4m42/marsh-edith-ngaio (accessed 17 December 2017)
DAME SISTER MARY LEO
CATHOLIC NUN, MUSIC AND SINGING TEACHER
Dame Sister Mary Leo, DBE
When Kathleen Agnes Niccol entered St Mary’s Convent to join the Sisters of Mercy she took the name of Sister Mary Leo. From 1930 she was in charge of music at St Mary's College and trained some of the world’s finest sopranos.
Dame Sister Mary Leo had no formal training in vocal technique and said she didn’t follow any particular method. Instead she had her own approach to teaching, which was tailored to each of her pupils. The result was a pure, floating quality of sound, known as bel canto, that became a hallmark of her pupils' singing. Dame Sister Mary Leo was sustained by her deep religious beliefs. She believed that both her pupils’ voices and her ability to creatively train those voices, were gifts from God.
She was a perfectionist, very sparing with her praise and expected ‘nothing less than one’s best.’ Some students found her too severe and demanding but most, especially her mature students, found her warm and affectionate. Her most famous pupils include Dames Malvina Major, Kiri Te Kanawa and Heather Begg. All three became world acclaimed sopranos. Dame Sister Mary Leo became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 1973.
Margaret Lovell-Smith. 'Niccol, Mary Leo', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1998. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4n8/niccol-mary-leo (accessed 2 February 2018)
TRIBAL LEADER, LANDOWNER AND HEROINE
c. 1842 –1909
Ngāti Tama, Te Ati Awa and Ngāti Toa
Of Māori descent, Huria identified with the Ngāti Tama, Ngāti Toa and Te Ati Awa iwi and she could trace her genealogy back to an ancestor in the Tokomaru canoe. Her parents, Wikitoria Te Amohau of Ngāti Te Whiti and Wiremu Katene Te Puoho were leaders of the settled community at Whakapuaka, near Nelson. In 1858 Huria married Hemi Matenga Wai-punahau, who owned much land in the Waikanae area. Huria also held significant areas of land in Porirua and Taranaki.
On the stormy night of September 3, 1863, the brig Delaware was wrecked on rocks at the foot of the cliffs at Whakapuaka, near Nelson. Huria, her husband and three others repeatedly swam into the wild surf, heroically rescuing all but one of the crew and passengers. The newspapers praised both Huria’s bravery and her beauty. At the time there was fighting between Māori and Pākehā in Waikato and Taranaki and her selfless actions were welcomed as a sign of a common humanity between the two races.
The government recognised Huria’s heroic actions with an award of £50 and the people of Nelson raised enough money for a gold watch, which was presented to her at a ceremony in the Nelson town hall. Huria’s bravery made her one of the few Māori women of her time to have a permanent place in Pākehā history and more than more than 2,000 Māori and Pākehā attended her tangi in 1909.
Mary Louise Ormsby. 'Matenga, Huria', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1990. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,
https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/1m24/matenga-huria (accessed 24 February 2018)
INTERPRETER, JOURNALIST AND MOUNTAINEER
Constance Alice Barnicoat
1872 – 1922
Constance was an intrepid traveller who worked in Europe as a highly respected, multilingual journalist and interpreter. She came to know Lenin and Trotsky and was a passionate supporter of the war against German Imperialism. Home schooled in Nelson, Constance went on to complete a BA at the University of Canterbury and then worked as New Zealand’s first official female shorthand reporter. In England, she became fluent in four languages and attended the 1899 Hague Peace Conference as a secretary and interpreter. Constance settled in Switzerland with her husband Julian Grande. They both worked as correspondents for British, American and New Zealand newspapers and she became one of the most respected women journalists of her time.
Constance was a passionate mountaineer and the first woman to cross the Copeland Pass from the Hermitage (Aoraki/Mt Cook) to Westland. Though quiet, she was also persevering and indomitable. For the climb she defied the strict, impractical dress codes for women of the day, instead wearing practical heavy boys’ boots, a white wool jersey and trousers. Her greatest mountaineering achievement was her 1911 winter ascent of the 4000m Great Schreckhorn in the Swiss Alps.
After her untimely death, her husband Julian honoured her dying wish and travelled to New Zealand to meet her family and friends. He climbed a peak in Westland and named it Peak Barnicoat in her honour.
Coney, Sandra: Standing in the Sunshine-A history of New Zealand Women since they won the vote. Penguin Books NZ Ltd, 1993
Janet McCallum. 'Barnicoat, Constance Alice', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3b10/barnicoat-constance-alice (accessed 8 January 2018)
NEW ZEALAND FASHION MOGUL
Karen Elizabeth Walker CNZM
As one of New Zealand’s most successful fashion designers, Karen Walker has become a global brand in the highly competitive fashion industry. Karen now has 1020 stores, in 200 cities, in 42 different countries, and she has chosen to stay based in New Zealand. She started sewing Barbie clothes on her grandmother’s machine when she was five and by the time she was 25 she had established her first outlet stores. In 1998 Karen showed her first runway collection and she is the only New Zealand designer to show at London Fashion Week. Today her designs are worn by celebrities worldwide.
Karen admits to being a rebel and an outsider, never one to just go with the flow. She’s committed to excellence and has a down-to-earth approach to business and creativity, which has inspired new generations of aspiring Kiwi fashion designers.
Thinking outside the box has helped Karen drive her brand in new directions. She collaborates with a range of New Zealand businesses. In addition to her ready to wear range, she now offers eyewear, jewellery, handbag collections and even a paint range. Karen has displayed her styles beside titles from New Zealand’s oldest bookstore, and recently she worked with the Cook Island Kuki 'Airani Creative Māmās, creating a tivaivai dress that was revealed at Buckingham Palace.
For more than a decade Karen has been an ambassador for the Breast Cancer Foundation and has designed one-off jewellery pieces and clothing for auction to raise funds for the Trust. In 2014 she was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM)
KAITIAKI OF HER PEOPLE'S LAND
Tuaiwa Hautai "Eva" Rickard
Of Tainui descent, Eva was born and brought up at Te Kōpua, Raglan. As a young woman she saw the land at Te Kōpua taken and her people moved away, so that a wartime airport could be built. After the war the government’s promise to return the land to Tainui was not honoured. Instead the land became the Raglan golf course.
For Eva this was the start of a long struggle. She told of seeing and hearing the spirits of her dead mother and brother in her dreams. She said they urged her to fight and reclaim the ancestral homeland of their people. During the 1970’s she led this fight and became a kaitiaki (guardian) of her people's land. In 1978 Eva was arrested, with 19 other protesters, during a sit-in protest on the 9th hole of the Raglan Golf Course. Her arrest was shown on national television and became a defining moment in this struggle. Eventually the golf course land was returned to Tainui Awhiro. It became a farm, with a marae and training centre site. Eva’s struggle resulted in changes to the law. If land taken for public works is no longer needed, the government must now return it to the original owners.
In 1984, Eva led over 2000 tribal representatives, church leaders and some Pākehā on Te Hikoi ki Waitangi, demanding an end to Waitangi Day celebrations until all Treaty grievances were settled. All her life she also fought for women’s rights within Māoridom, encouraging other female activists to ignore traditional Māori protocol and speak at official Māori gatherings, including on the Marae.
While Eva was often criticised for her views and actions, she held true to her values and her desire for justice for her people.
'Eva Rickard', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/people/eva-rickard, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 17-May-2017
Rosemary Anne Askin
A fascination with rocks and fossils led Rosemary to the study of geology and zoology. She was the first New Zealand woman to undertake her own research programme in Antarctica. Before Rosemary, Antarctic research was an exclusively male domain, but her research skills and fortitude in the harsh Antarctic climate set a benchmark for the women who followed her into Antarctic science.
In the summer of 1970, 21 year old Rosemary became the first woman to work in a deep field setting, living for weeks in a tent camp, far from the relative comfort of Scott Base. This expedition discovered Antarctica’s richest-known site of fossilised fish remains. She was also a member of the research team that discovered the first mammal fossils in Antarctica.
Rosemary visited the southern continent many times over the next 30 years, studying fossilised pollen and spores and looking at the way the vegetation had changed over time. The naming of Mount Askin in the Antarctic Darwin Mountains recognised her special contribution to Antarctic research.
THE PUREST VOICE IN JAZZ
Mavis Chloe Rivers
1929 – 1992
Considered by Frank Sinatra as the ‘purest voice’ in Jazz, Mavis is remembered as New Zealand’s finest jazz singer. Just a teenager when America joined WWII, she became a troop mascot, singing to thousands of serviceman stationed in American Samoa, with her father’s band. After moving to Auckland Mavis soon became one of NZ’s most popular female singers, performing on radio, in cabarets and recording on the fledgling New Zealand TANZA and Zodiac labels. These recordings form an important part of New Zealand’s history of recorded music.
In the mid-fifties she moved to the USA, studying in Utah before settling in Los Angeles. Mavis signed first with Capitol records and then with Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Label and in 1960 she was nominated for the Grammy for Best New Artist. She continued to perform until her sudden death after a performance in Los Angeles.
Shane Rivers. 'Rivers, Mavis Chloe', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2000. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/5r13/rivers-mavis-chloe (accessed 28 November 2017)
"QUEEN OF THE COSMOS"
Beatrice Muriel Hill Tinsley
1941 – 1981
Dubbed the Queen of the Cosmos, Beatrice rose to the top of the male dominated field of astronomy. Her creative thinking and original research changed scientists’ understanding of the origin and size of the universe. She pioneered models of galactic evolution and changed the way the distances to far- away galaxies were calculated (all before computers!).
From the age of fourteen Beatrice wanted to be an astronomer. In the 1950’s only men were astronomers but that didn’t deter her and she graduated with an MSc in Physics in 1961. Unfortunately Beatrice didn’t realise that when she married a fellow physicist, she would no longer be allowed to teach at any university where her husband worked. When he took a university appointment in Dallas, Beatrice commuted 300km to work part time at a different university, as well as completing her PhD in half the usual time. Because she was a married woman her ground breaking PhD research was initially not taken seriously. Eventually she had to choose between her marriage and her career.
Following her divorce Beatrice was appointed to the staff at Yale University and three years later she became their first female professor of astronomy. She was just thirty eight years old. Beatrice also was a gifted teacher. She developed new teaching methods and mentored young women scientists in New Zealand and North America, right up until her early death from melanoma.
More to Read:
Cole Catley, Christine :Bright Star - Beatrice Hill Tinsley Astronomer, Cape Catley, 2006,
IRIAKA MATIU RĀTANA
FIRST MĀORI WOMAN ELECTED TO PARLIAMENT
Iriaka Matiu Rātana OBE
Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi
Born on the Whanganui River, Iriaka Te Rio had connections to Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi through both parents. She was a talented singer and at 16 went to live at Rātana Pā. She performed in and trained the cultural groups that travelled around New Zealand with prophet Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana.
In 1925 she became the prophet’s second wife. After his death, Iriaka married Matiu Rātana, her late husband’s son by his first marriage. They ran a dairy farm at Whangaehu and after Matiu won the Western Māori seat in 1945, Iriaka often had to run the farm and the family alone.
When Matiu died four years later Iriaka decided to step into his place. Despite some vehement opposition she was selected as the Labour Party candidate and was comfortably elected in November 1949 becoming the first woman to represent Māori in the New Zealand parliament. After giving birth to her seventh child a month later, she entered Parliament. Iriaka was eloquent, gentle and always polite and she was listened to with respect by both sides of the House. Her electorate covered much of the North Island. She didn’t drive or fly but often covered 10,000 km a month by bus and train, working tirelessly to improve living standards of Māori, particularly at the church settlement of Rātana Pā. Iriaka retired from Parliament in 1969 and in 1971 was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to the Māori people.
Angela Ballara. 'Ratana, Iriaka Matiu', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 2000. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/5r7/ratana-iriaka-matiu (accessed 2 February 2018)
'Iriaka Rātana ', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/people/iriaka-ratana, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 8-Nov-2017
FIVE TIMES OLYMPIC BOARDSAILOR
Barbara Ann Kendall OBE
As an Olympic superwoman on the water and the only NZ women to compete in five Summer Olympic Games, Barbara won a gold, silver and bronze medal in boardsailing. She and her brother Bruce are the only Kiwi brother and sister to both win Olympic gold medals.
At school she competed in swimming and athletics, but her greatest passion and talent was dancing and by the time Barbara was fourteen she was teaching her own dance classes.
She spent her summer school holidays with her family on their old yacht ‘Sunlight’ and learnt to sail in the weekends, initially competing in P class then moving on to Starlings.
Barbara took up boardsailing when she was 17 and three years later she joined the professional boardsailing circuit. She was twice NZ Sailor of the Year, five times winner of the Halberg Award for Sportswomen of the Year and she was awarded an OBE in 1993 for services to boardsailing. Barbara retired in 2010 after 24 years at the top of her sport.
DAME AUGUSTA WALLACE
NEW ZEALAND'S FIRST WOMAN JUDGE
Dame Georgina Catriona Pamela Augusta Wallace DBE
1929 – 2008
In the mid- seventies, only two percent of New Zealand’s lawyers were women and so it was an exceptional achievement for Dame Augusta to be appointed as the first woman judge in the District Court in 1975. She served in this role for 18 years.
After graduating from the University of Auckland, she was admitted to the bar in the mid 1950’s and practiced independently for eleven years before being appointed a judge. Dame Augusta said she had spent a lot of time fostering a grim, dragon image because in the legal profession it often helped to look forbidding; but beneath her brisk manner on the bench she had a great sense of humour. Her consummate professionalism was important in increasing the acceptance of women in legal practice in New Zealand.
In 1990 while presiding over the Otahuhu Youth Court, a young man lunged at her with a machete, slashing open her face and breaking her jaw. This incident lead to a national review of court security.
Dame Augusta also chaired the Abortion Supervisory Committee and served on the Waitangi Tribunal and throughout her life worked tirelessly for several community organisations including Age Concern, the Hope Foundation and Victim Support. In 1993 she became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
LEADER IN MĀORI FILMMAKING
Merata Mita, Companion of the Order of Merit
Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāi Te Rangi
As a film director, producer and a passionate voice for Māori, Merata broke down nearly every barrier known to Māori women. For her, image was a powerful means of communication. She also pioneered Maori current affairs on television, acted, lectured and mentored the next generation of filmmakers.
Merata worked tirelessly for Māori creative control because she believed that Māori bought a unique passion and intensity to the telling of their stories. She became a leader in Māori filmmaking and was the first NZ woman to produce a feature –length documentary, Patu (1981), a passionate record of the clashes between police and protestors during the 1981 Springbok Rugby tour. She was also the second Māori woman to direct a feature film drama, Mauri (1988).
Throughout her life Merata used film to push for for social change in race relations, justice, the portrayal of Maori history and workers’ rights. She was made a Companion of the Order of Merit, not long before her sudden death in 2010.
“Swimming against the tide becomes as exhilarating experience. It makes you strong. I am completely without fear now.”
Peter Sharples – Tribute https://www.thebigidea.nz/stories/tribute-merata-mita
NEW ZEALAND'S JULIA CHILD
Tui Flower QSM
She was a small woman with a big personality and Tui single-handedly changed the way New Zealanders cook. She invented ‘food writing’ in New Zealand during her time as food editor of the New Zealand Women’s Weekly from the 60’s to the 80’s. Her clear, common sense recipes showed a new generation how to serve up more than ‘meat and three veg’. Her recipes included ‘exotic ingredients’ such as wine, garlic, capsicum, eggplants, broccoli avocado and oil and Tui showed women how to embrace new kitchen technology.
After studying Home Science at the University of Otago in the 1940’s, Tui travelled through America attending Cordon Bleu courses and discovering food journalism. In the 50’s she moved to Paris and became the only woman in her class at the École Hôtelière de Paris, in an environment where women were barely tolerated.
Tui had great respect for the generations of women cooks who had come before her, women who could create meals on coal ranges with the minimum of equipment. She in turn became a mentor to many young New Zealand food writers and chefs and has been described as “New Zealand’s Julia Child”.
More to Read
Self Raising Flower by Tui Flower. Viking, Auckland 1998
STELLAR ATHLETE AND FIRST NZ WOMAN OLYMPIC MEDALLIST
Yvette Winifred Williams CNZM, MBE
She was the running, jumping, throwing, hurdling athlete of the early 1950’s and New Zealand’s athlete of the century yet Yvette had shown little athletic ability at school. She joined the local athletic club for the social life but two months later won the national shotput title and Jim Bellwood became her coach. While most believed weight training was bad for women, Yvette often ran in heavy army boots carrying brick weights. Conscientious training, outstanding physical ability and determination helped her win a gold medal in the long jump at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.
She was first NZ woman Olympic medallist and the first New Zealander to win a medal in an Olympic field event. During her stellar career she held the world long jump record for 18 months and won 21 national titles in shotput, long jump, discus, hurdles and javelin and has inspired generations of NZ women athletes.
'Yvette Williams', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/people/yvette-williams, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 27-Feb-2017
Moses, Ken (6 February 1951). "Jumpers are her speciality". The Argus. p. 11.
ARAPERA KAA BLANK
MĀORI POET AND TEACHER
Arapera Hineira Kaa Blank
1932 – 2002
Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu,
Rongowhakaata, Te Aitanga a Māhaki
Articulate and opinionated, Arapera was a celebrated writer and thinker and one of New Zealand’s first bilingual poets. She was part of a group of Māori writers also writing in English in the 1950’s, and won a special Katherine Mansfield Memorial award in 1959 for one of her first pieces of writing. In her essays, poems and short stories she explored the clash of Māori and Pakeha culture, the migration of Māori to the city, and the role of women in New Zealand – particularly Māori women.
Born in Rangitukia on the East Coast, Arapera was proud to be a Maori woman. She was regal, glamorous and funny. For 25 years she was a passionate high school teacher and many of her past students still think of themselves as “Ma Blank’s girls.”
"I enjoy words that sparkle, whether they be in Māori, my mother tongue, or English. What a privilege it is to inherit and to appreciate a language, and to enjoy another equally."
NEW ZEALAND'S FIRST WOMAN DOCTOR
Emily Hancock Siedeberg-McKinnon, CBE
After pursuing a career chosen for her by her father and studying at the University of Otago Medical School, Emily became New Zealand’s first woman doctor when she graduated in 1896. The university had no objections to her studying medicine but her male classmates were not happy. They fired at her with pea shooters during lectures, threw bits of flesh her way in the dissection room and subjected her to hoots and catcalls. She was even asked to leave some ‘sensitive’ anatomy lectures and be taught alone.
Emily was a strong, courageous and determined woman, who was unafraid to say what she thought. All her practicing life she worked to improve the health of women and children but she found it hard to establish herself in practice. Many viewed her not as a real doctor, but rather as superior kind of nurse. For thirty years she had to supplement her private practice income by working as a medical superintendent at St Helens Maternity Hospital.
She was the founder and first president of the New Zealand Medical Woman’s Association. But change was slow. Thirty years after Emily graduated only 7% of NZ medical graduates were women. Today, 120 years later, more than 50% of New Zealand medical graduates are women.
Patricia A. Sargison. 'Siedeberg, Emily Hancock', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3s16/siedeberg-emily-hancock (accessed 2 February 2018)