Skip to main content

25 new stories of trailblazing New Zealand women

Montage of four women

Palaeontologist Joan Wiffen, transgender icon Carmen Rupe, politician Tirikatene-Sullivan, and writer Margaret Mahy, some of the women whose life stories have been published on the DNZB.

This post was first published in Te Ara's Signposts blog on 19 September 2018.

This week we’re publishing 25 new biographies of women in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB), to celebrate the 125th anniversary of women winning the right to vote:

These women came to prominence in their fields between the 1940s and the 1970s. It would be impossible for any group of 25 women to capture the complexity and variety of the lives of New Zealand women, but we hope this group will reflect some of the diversity of experience. It would be hard to find two more contrasting lives than those of social morality campaigner Patricia Bartlett and transgender sex worker and nightclub entrepreneur Carmen Rupe. The rest run the gamut from writers to judges, community workers to scientists, broadcasters to athletes, activists to actors.

The new entries have been written by subject experts, including Barbara Brookes, Sandra Coney, Tessa Duder, Margaret Tennant, Rebecca Priestley, Roger Robinson and Jill Trevelyan. The entries, which collectively amount to more than 50,000 words, include over 200 images, videos, and sound recordings, many drawn from private collections and not previously published. We plan to have te reo Māori translations of the entries relating to Māori subjects available in early 2019.

This is the first substantial group of new biographies to be released since 2011, as I discussed in my November 2017 Signposts blog. It is the beginning of an ongoing publication programme, in which we aim to publish at least 20 new biographies each year on an ongoing basis.

This week we are also launching a new-look DNZB homepage, reflecting the DNZB’s renewed vigour and focus on the future. We hope you enjoy it, and look forward to sharing many more New Zealand lives with you in the years to come.


Updated on 29th June 2021