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Taranaki Stories

These stories capture the very essence of Taranaki – the people and the landscape.
They record the achievements of those who live here, the struggles of the first settlers, the determination to overcome challenges, those who have made their mark on not only their own, but also future generations.
But the stories are not just about hardship – they are also inspiring, thrilling, mystifying, enlightening and entertaining.
 
 

 

Leading Women

On The Job: June Litman sayings still resonate in the heads of working journalists. Image: The Daily News

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Often it is the men who are credited with settling this land, the changes they wrought on the landscape stand as a constant reminder of their toil. But the women of Taranaki should not be forgotten – the pioneer wives, struggling to bring up their families with little money, little food and living in challenging conditions; the educator who pushed for equal pay for teachers way before her time and the region’s first female mayor. And there are modern day heroines too – New Zealand’s first female news editor, the triple star sportswoman and the woman who left a legacy for contemporary artists. Women have always played a central role in society and here we recognise it, celebrate it and record it for the future

‘Good Morning, Everybody’ – The Aunt Daisy Story

Maud Ruby Basham was the undisputed queen of the radio airwaves, with a career that spanned more than forty years. Though she was born in London, she had firm Taranaki roots.    After her father, a carpenter, died when she was three, her mother Eliza Taylor - an attractive woman who loved good conversation, theatre, music and art - packed up her youngest children and followed Albert, the eldest... more
 

A Midwife’s Hands

A Prayer for all seasons The midwife's prayer begins:   Of all thy gifts, God, give to me Courage, tact and sympathy, Cheerfulness, a ready hand, A warm, true heart to understand, A little of the agony And suffering that has to be   Perhaps Marion Squire, a young woman hell-bent on a career of birthing babies, was granted all these things in the course of her career.   Yet, at 96, as... more
 

A Woman Before Her Time

In the middle of a wretched war a Taranaki schoolteacher calls for peace. The same woman seeks equal pay for female teachers, makes stirring speeches on women's rights and pens poetry of love, loss and pacifism. This may sound like a tale from the hippy days of the 1960s. But it's not. It is a story about Elsie Euphemia Andrews, a woman way before her time. Or perhaps a woman who paved... more
 

Bog, bush and candlelight medicine – Dr Doris Gordon

Doris Jolly and her friend Francie Dowling gazed apprehensively at the ivy covered windows of the anatomy school opposite. It was the eve of what they feared would be a big ordeal – their first class in corpse dissection. The students at Otago Medical School weren't afraid of the bodies (‘they can't be any worse than dog fish’), but the thought of making fools of themselves in front of the men... more
 

Brainwave – Robin Fancourt

It's summer. High on a grassy plateau overlooking the city, a rabbit hops around the edges of a well-groomed lawn next to a prized stone carving of a lizard hugging a rock.   It's sanctuary here at Robin Fancourt's home, and one she must have welcomed at times as a respite from her job.   Dr Robin Fancourt is a paediatrician with a special interest in abused, neglected and disadvantaged... more
 

Elsie Andrews – The Making of a Feminist

Education turned an apathetic Taranaki farm girl into a champion for women's rights. But the evolution of Elsie Euphemia Andrews was no blinding flash from ignorance to insight - it was a long, slow journey, with knowledge gathered up like golden apples. The fruits of her learning made Elsie outspoken in her beliefs. She sought equality for women, peace not war, education reforms, pay equity... more
 

From Milking Sheds to Making Wedding Dresses to Changing the Rape Law – Joyce Crowley, QSO, JP

It's interesting to read in Joyce Crowley's memoirs that her mother was the first woman in New Zealand elected to a school committee.   But her mother was elected simply because a quorum was needed and they were one member short. "So onto that committee went mother!" Joyce writes in her memoirs A Woman Ahead of her Time.   Nothing in Joyce Crowley's life has ever been left much to chance. Once... more
 

God Has Been Good To Me – Sister Anne Keegan Looks Back

Born of good English and Irish stock, Sister Anne Keegan's story begins in New Plymouth in 1911, but it's the memories of farming life and creative ways that saw her family survive the Depression years that perhaps stick out the most.   In the warm sunroom of the Mission Home, New Plymouth, she speaks easily and full of gentle grace about times long ago, when her name was Mary, and her nickname... more
 

Grannie Evans – a remarkable woman

It was late evening when Ann Evans answered a knock at the door of her little Hawera home. Her children were fast asleep in bed as she opened the door to find a group of Maori on her porch. A man stepped forward and asked her to accompany them to treat a sick friend. Unquestioningly she agreed.   Wrapping a shawl around her shoulders and grasping her medical bag tightly in her hand she mounted a... more
 

Jelly Sponges and Rose Bushes

Alison Gordon was only a young woman of 22 when her mother died but she still has lasting memories of a mother and woman ahead of her time. "I am very sure Mother was way ahead of her colleagues in the field of treating her patients as a 'whole identity'... she realised that a person's state of mind, living conditions, relationships etc played a huge part in whatever was causing their 'physical... more
 

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