Perseverance, with brains and brilliance: women in science

Did you know? Women are typically given smaller research grants than their male colleagues and, while they represent 33.3% of all researchers, only 12% of members of national science academies are women. (United Nations Report)

Despite tremendous progress, a significant gender gap persists within all levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines around the world. While female representation has progressed substantially over time, female researchers still have shorter and lower paying careers, despite a shortage of skills in many fields. Achieving science and gender equality is a core principle of the UN’s International Day of Women and Girls in Science, and an internationally agreed upon Sustainable Development Goal for the UN’s 2030 Agenda, to strengthen the ties between society, science and policy strategies for the future.

Today, on International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we recognise the vital contributions our female scientists have made that have changed the course of history, despite tremendous odds, disadvantages and social pressures. We’ve compiled a list of some of the inspiring books that feature the too often untold stories of women making ground-breaking discoveries in their fields. Read their inspiring stories and help support the next generation of women and girls in science.

Headstrong : 52 women who changed science–and the world / Swaby, Rachel
“52 insightful and inspiring profiles of history’s brightest female scientists and mathematicians. Highlighting not only that women in science are often treated with less respect than their male counterparts, but also that the STEM fields are still underrepresented spaces. Headstrong gives these lives the attention and respect they deserve–with the aim to encourage and inspire a new generation of women and girls to put on their lab coats.” (Adapted from Catalogue)


Why science is sexist / Gaston, Nicola
“Nicola Gaston, President of the New Zealand Association of Scientists scrutinises the sexism afflicting the discipline of science, from the under-representation of women to the ‘scientific’ argument that mental capabilities are gendered. Ultimately, she asks what can be done to combat unconscious bias in science – and to ensure that the future of scientific inquiry is both balanced and objective.” (Adapted from Catalogue)



A lab of one’s own : science and suffrage in the First World War / Fara, Patricia
A Lab of One’s Own tells the fascinating and extraordinary stories of the lives of female scientists, doctors, and engineers who undertook endeavours normally reserved for men during WWI. It tells fascinating and extraordinary stories featuring initiative, determination, and isolation, set against a backdrop of war, prejudice, and disease. Patricia Fara investigates the enterprising careers of these pioneering women and their impact on science, medicine, women’s role during and after the first World War.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Wonder Women : 25 innovators, inventors, and trailblazers who changed history / Maggs, Sam
“A fun and feminist exploration of the forgotten women in Science, Technology and beyond. Smart women have always been able to achieve amazing things, even when the odds were stacked against them. Wonder Women tells the stories of the totally rad women in history who broke barriers as scientists, engineers, mathematicians, adventurers, and inventors. Includes interviews with women in STEM careers and a guide to women-centric science and technology organizations.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The comet sweeper : Caroline Herschel’s astronomical ambition / Brock, Claire
“The story of Britain’s first female professional scientist, Caroline Herschel. Having escaped domestic servitude in earlier life, Caroline Herschel learned astronomy while helping her brother William, then Astronomer Royal. Soon making scientific discoveries in her own right, she swept to international scientific fame and became the first woman in Britain to make her living from science. Brock tells the story of a woman determined to win independence and satisfy her astronomical ambition.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Nobel Prize women in science : their lives, struggles, and momentous discoveries / McGrayne, Sharon Bertsch
“Since 1901 there have been over 300 recipients of the Nobel Prize in the sciences, yet only 10 of them – about 3%- have been women. In Nobel Prize Women in Science, McGrayne explores the reasons for this astonishing disparity by examining the lives and achievements of 15 women scientists who either won a Nobel Prize or played a crucial role in a Nobel Prize-winning project. Revealing the relentless discrimination these women faced both as students and as researchers, celebrating how they were passionately in love with science.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The only woman in the room : why science is still a boys’ club / Pollack, Eileen
“Eileen Pollack grew up in the ’60s and ’70s dreaming of a career as a theoretical astrophysicist. Denied the chance to take advanced courses in science and math, she nonetheless made her way to Yale, where she went on to graduate with honors, as one of the first 2 women to earn a degree in physics. And yet, isolated, lacking in confidence, starved for encouragement, she abandoned her ambition to become a physicist. Years later, Pollack revisited her reasons for walking away from the career she once had coveted.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Mistress of science : the story of the remarkable Janet Taylor, pioneer of sea navigation / Croucher, John S
“It is hard to imagine a more male-dominated field in the 19th century than sea navigation. This was the high-point of the British Empire and sea navigation drove it. Yet in the midst of this domain, Janet Taylor emerged as a young woman able to match the best male minds in the field. She was one of the most remarkable scientists of the period, a gifted mathematician, astronomer, author and instrument maker, a teacher of navigation and a businesswoman.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Rise of the rocket girls : the women who propelled us, from missiles to the moon to Mars / Holt, Nathalia
“During World War II, when the brand-new minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate jet velocities and plot missile trajectories, they recruited an elite group of young women who transformed rocket design. Based on extensive research and interviews with the living members of the team, Rise of the Rocket Girls offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science, illuminating both where we’ve been and the far reaches of where we’re heading.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Forgotten women. The scientists / Tsjeng, Zing
Forgotten Women is uncovers the lost herstories of influential women who have refused, over hundreds of years, to accept the hand they’ve been dealt and, as a result, have formed, shaped and changed the course of our futures. From leaders and scientists to artists and writers, the fascinating stories of these women that time forgot are now celebrated, Forgotten Women is putting their achievements firmly back on the map.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Te ruahinetanga | Menopause

World Menopause Day is celebrated every year on October 18th to raise awareness and encourage the sharing of experiences and knowledge to reduce stigma around this natural stage of life. This year’s theme is Brain Fog and Memory Difficulties in Menopause. Te ruahinetanga | Menopause transition journeys are highly individualised experiences, where a range of different symptoms can occur, with varying levels of severity affecting qualities of life in different ways.  

We’ve created a reading list that includes a selection of new titles and popular staples, exploring both personal experiences and medical know-how around the inevitable transitions that our bodies can go through.

To access online resources in our collection, browse through our Te ruahinetanga | Menopause list on Libby, which includes eBooks, eAudiobooks and Magazines on the topic. You can also look back at our 2021 World Menopause Day post where Menopause over Martinis founder Sarah Connor shared her personal experience of perimenopause, and how that lead to the founding of her company and an awareness raising journey.  

For further online information check out the Australasian Menopause Society, who provide access to resources that aim to bridge the gap between healthcare providers and people experiencing menopause, ensuring accurate and evidence-based information is available to the wider community. You can download their printable infographic poster in both English and te reo Māori. New Zealand Family Planning also provides helpful advice for managing symptoms of menopause, and information on treatments and clinics available across Aotearoa. 

Spread the word, begin a conversation with a loved one or deepen your knowledge through our reading lists to help de-stigmatise te ruahinetanga | menopause today.

Reading List

Don’t sweat it : how to make ‘the change’ a good one / Pellegrino, Nicky
“Forget the myths and misinformation, respected health writer Nicky Pellegrino includes the latest research in this wonderfully candid, warm, and witty investigation into the realities of menopause. Nicky shares her own insights into this often-challenging phase of life, and interviews the experts for the latest credible research to help women make the right choice for themselves. Taking an upbeat approach to managing ‘the change’ to reshape how women experience menopause and show how life can be even better for it.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

This changes everything : the honest guide to menopause and perimenopause / Bezzant, Niki
“Niki Bezzant shares the latest specialist research and advice along with personal stories from real women to answer the most important questions women have about the hottest of topics. From bodies to mental health, alcohol to our stressful working lives, fertility to relationships, natural remedies to HRT, she dispels the myths and confusion around menopause – with a healthy side-serve of calling out sexism and snake-oil along the way.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Queen menopause : finding your majesty in the mayhem / Daddo, Alison
“A friendly, frank, compassionate and comprehensive companion for any woman experiencing menopause, or anyone wondering what to expect. Through sharing her own experience in a very real way, Ali hopes that women won’t feel so alone. Queen Menopause is the book Ali wishes she’d had when she was approaching menopause – so she could have been better prepared for what was coming, embraced the process and felt supported. This is for all women.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Menopause : a comic treatment
“A collection of comics presenting diverse views of menopause. Contributors address a range of life experiences, ages, gender identities, ethnicities, and health conditions.” (Catalogue)



Next level : your guide to kicking ass, feeling great, and crushing goals through menopause and beyond / Sims, Stacy T
“A renowned exercise and nutrition scientist provides active women approaching or experiencing menopause with all the training and nutrition advice they need to build a strong fitness foundation to keep them strong and capable as they age.” (Catalogue)


Cracking the menopause : while keeping yourself together / Frostrup, Mariella
“Straight-talking broadcaster Mariella Frostrup and award-winning health journalist Alice Smellie equip you with the knowledge you need to manage your symptoms from perimenopause onwards. Separating the myths from the reality and offering expertise, hope and advice, to open up the conversation about an urgent topic that half the population will experience, but barely anyone is talking about.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Hormone repair manual : every woman’s guide to healthy hormones after 40 / Briden, Lara
“Naturopath Lara Briden has more than 20 years’ experience in women’s health and her fresh approach aims to overturn the stigma of perimenopause and menopause to show women that many symptoms are temporary and manageable. Backed by evidence-based research and case studies, this is a reassuring guide to soothing, nourishing and strengthening your body, mind and spirit during this time of change.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The menopause manifesto : own your health with facts and feminism / Gunter, Jen
“The only thing predictable about menopause is its unpredictability. Factor in widespread misinformation, a lack of research, and the culture of shame around women’s bodies, and it’s no wonder women are unsure what to expect. Menopause is a planned change, and just like puberty we should be educated on what’s to come years in advance. This essential guide will revolutionize how women experience menopause.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Older and wider : a survivor’s guide to the menopause / Eclair, Jenny
“Jenny Eclair’s hilarious, irreverent and refreshingly honest compendium of the menopause is a whistle-stop tour of the menopause in all its glory, that will make you realise that it really isn’t just you. As Jenny says, ‘I can’t say that I’ve emerged like a beautiful butterfly from some hideous old menopausal chrysalis and it would be a lie to say that I’ve found the ‘old me’ again. But what I have found is the ‘new me’ – and you know what? I’m completely cool with that.'” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Perimenopower / Wilk, Katarina
“There may be up to fifteen years of hormonal changes in a woman’s body before she reaches the point where her periods stop. These years can be turbulent both emotionally and physically as our hormones fluctuate from our mid-thirties, so do the needs of our bodies. With the right lifestyle and dietary changes, you can turn the perimenopause into a powerful life transition towards a stronger, healthier and happier you.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Women In Sport

This week celebrations began in cities across Aotearoa and Australia, as the one-year countdown to the  2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup began. As Aotearoa ramps up to co-host the biggest competition in women’s sport, we take a look into our collection to highlight and celebrate the personal journeys, and storied histories of the women who achieve at the highest sporting levels.This curated collection of books and eBooks celebrates the visibility and empowerment of women, who set the benchmark ever-higher in their sporting professions. Learn about the extraordinary leadership, resilience and strengths exhibited by these women, who are driven to succeed and thrive in a predominantly male-oriented arena. Explore how women in sport are challenging gender-norms, defying harmful stereotypes, and inspiring the next generation of athletes to continue to reshape the changing landscape of popular sports.

Kicking off : how women in sport are changing the game / Shephard, Sarah
“There’s a battle being fought. It’s raging on the sports fields, in the newsrooms and behind the scenes at every major broadcaster. Women in sport are fighting for equality with more vigour than ever, but are they breaking down the barriers that stand in their way? Sarah Shephard looks behind the headlines to see whether progress is really being made and tells the stories that can no longer be ignored, to reveal the personal experiences of being at the top of the game.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Overdrive cover Under the Lights and In the Dark, Gwendolyn Oxenham (ebook)
“From precarious positions in underfunded teams and leagues, to sold-out stadiums, Oxenham tells the stories of the phenoms, underdogs, and nobodies of women’s football – players willing to follow the game wherever it takes them. Whether you’re a newcomer to the sport or a die-hard fan, this is an inspiring book about stars’ beginnings and adventures, struggles and hardship, and, above all, the time-honored romance of the game.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

Running hot / Tamati, Lisa
“Lisa Tamati was the first New Zealand woman to compete in the The Badwater ultramarathon through Death Valley in the United States, one of the world’s toughest races. But Lisa’s story is so much more than that one race. At the age of 19 she suffered a crippling back injury and was told she should give up running. She took that as a challenge and went on to run an unassisted crossing of the Libyan Desert. What happened in that desert would change the course of Lisa’s life and instill in her a love of desert running. Running Hot is a story of a life lived to the max – a story of challenges, setbacks, heartbreaks and triumph.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Overdrive cover Game On, Sue Anstiss (ebook)
“Sport has an extraordinary, unique capacity to challenge and change society – to bring joy and hope; to improve physical and mental health, reduce loneliness and build self-esteem and happiness. In recent years, the landscape for women’s sport has finally begun to shift – we are now witnessing positive change as never before. Game On is a celebration of the trailblazing women opening doors for others and a manifesto for women’s sport – a rallying cry to ensure the progress we are currently seeing goes from strength to strength.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

The warm sun on my face : the story of women’s cricket in New Zealand / Auger, Trevor
“This is the story of women’s cricket in New Zealand, from its earliest humble origins to its glory days on the international stage. It is also the story of the women who have come to be recognised amongst the very best in the world at their sport. It is the story of a game played for the sheer love of it, and of the hard work of the dedicated souls who built and sustained women’s cricket, often in the face of challenge and adversity.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Overdrive cover Strong Like Her, Haley Shapley (ebook)
“Beautiful and powerful, Strong Like Her presents the awe-inspiring account of women’s athleticism throughout history. Part group biography, part cultural history, Shapley delves into the fascinating stories of our muscular foremothers, to celebrate strength in all its forms. Illuminating the lives and accomplish­ments of storied female sports stars, whose con­tributions to society go far beyond their entries in record books, Shapley challenges us to rethink everything we thought we knew about the power of women.” (Adapted from Overdrive description)


Trail of Light


Mural by Rhondda Greig, a tribute to the Trail of Light women
Mural by Rhondda Greig, featuring Trail of Light women

We are delighted to advise that the three volumes of the Trail of Light have been digitised and are now accessible. This has been a joint project with The Landmarks Project Celebrating Women Trust and Zonta Wellington. The Trail of Light series is currently housed in the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul and features short biographical profiles of 80 New Zealand women which celebrates their social, economic, or cultural contribution to Aotearoa New Zealand. The ‘Trail’ places on record women who have made a tangible difference to the status and well-being of women in New Zealand. They have given outstanding service to others, some have inspired through their vision and courage, and some have worked quietly and effectively without public recognition.

The original printed volumes were a direct outcome of the successful Suffrage Centennial Year celebrations, 1991 — 1994. They were compiled and written by Barbara Mabbett, while the book design, and artwork of the accompanying mural (illustrating this post) were accomplished by Rhondda Greig.

There are three Tribute books:
•the first book records the biographical summaries of the women selected for the ‘Trail of Light’ of the original fifty women.
•the second book provides a brief summary of each Landmark
•the third book, called ‘Trail of Light Continues’ contains biographical summaries of 30 additional women.

Nursing our boys: a Kiwi aboard the first hospital ship

Nurses RegisterCharlotte (Lottie) Le Gallais is a distant relative of mine, who joined the New Zealand Army Nursing Service Corps. Her registration details can be found in the New Zealand Registers of Medical Practitioners and Nurses, 1873, 1882-1933, from the Ancestry database (available in-library only. Check out our Genealogy page for further information). She was one of fourteen nursing sisters who were selected for the first voyage of Hospital Ship No. 1 (the ‘Maheno’), which left Wellington 10 July 1915, and was bound for Gallipoli.

Here is a photograph of the ship in the 14 July 1915 issue of The New Zealand Herald, retrieved for the PapersPast database accessible from our Newspapers and History database pages. The page is full of War-related articles, a year into the 4 year campaign. (Click on the image to enlarge)New Zealand Herald, July 14, 1915 SMALL

Lottie completed her voyage, and was posted to the retired list 21 June 1916. On her return to New Zealand, she married her fiancé, Charles Gardner, with whom she had two children. Lottie died in 1956.

Two of Lottie’s four brothers served in WWI – Leddra (Leddie), who was killed in action at Gallipoli 23 July 1915, and Owen, who fought in France, and survived the war to return home.

A book was written about Lottie, and this is in our collections:

Lottie: Gallipoli Nuse coverLottie : Gallipoli nurse / text by John Lockyer ; illustrations by Alan Barnett.
“An extraordinary account of a nurse’s journey to Gallipoli aboard the New Zealand hospital ship Maheno. Her experiences include caring for the wounded and coping with the death of her brother Leddie, who was killed in action. Based on the letters of Lottie and Leddie Le Gallais and the war diary of John Duder.” (Syndetics summary)

Other titles

Syndetics book coverAnzac girls : the extraordinary story of our World War I nurses / Peter Rees.
“By the end of World War I, 45 Australian and New Zealand nurses had died on overseas service, and over 200 had been decorated. These were the women who left for war looking for adventure and romance, but were soon confronted with challenges for which their civilian lives could never have prepared them. Their strength and dignity were remarkable. Using diaries and letters, Peter Rees takes us into the hospital camps and the wards and the tent surgeries on the edge of some of the most horrific battlefronts of human history. But he also allows the friendships and loves of these courageous and compassionate women to enrich their experiences, and ours. Profoundly moving, this is a story of extraordinary courage and humanity shown by a group of women whose contribution to the Anzac legend has barely been recognized in our history. Peter Rees has changed that understanding forever.” (Syndetics summary)

White Ships coverThe white ships : New Zealand’s First World War hospital ships / Gavin McLean.
“In 1915 the government chartered the trans-Tasman liners Maheno and Marama for use as our first hospital ships. For the next four years, starting with the Maheno off the beach at Gallipoli, they travelled the globe, staffed by Kiwi seamen, doctors and nurses. Back home, thousands of New Zealanders made items and raised money to support these ‘mercy ships’ and followed their movements closely as they transported the sick and wounded from many countries.” (Syndetics summary)

Socks & Plum Pudding for Christmas

In 1912, Lord Liverpool became governor of New Zealand. Alongside him, stood his wife, Annette Louise Foljambe, Countess of Liverpool. As soon as the War started in 1914, Lady Liverpool became an active supporter and fundraiser for the New Zealand troops sent to fight overseas.

Her Excellency's Knitting Book coverHer Excellency’s knitting book , compiled under the personal supervision of Her Excellency the Countess of Liverpool was published in 1915.  It was intended to encourage the women of New Zealand, as well as children (boys and girls!), to take up knitting as a valuable skill and turn it into a mass war effort by crafting useful items that would be sent to soldiers fighting for the Empire. Socks in particular were in high demand, a pair only lasting a couple of weeks. Often, the knitter would add a little hand-sewn personal note inside the garment for its recipient. The initiative became hugely popular and contributed to making soldiers feel that they weren’t forgotten back home.
One of these little books has been a treasure in our Rare Books room at the Central Library. It contains a hand-written introduction by Lady Liverpool herself, encouraging “the women of New Zealand” to take their part in the war effort by using the patterns in the book to produce some much needed comfort for the troops.


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The book despite its very modest dimensions as it was designed to be carried in a knitting bag, contains a myriad patterns and knitting instructions to guide the novice (“To wind wool so that you work from the inside of the ball, p.41) as much as the accomplished knitters . It is also dotted with quaint advertising from businesses all over New Zealand such as this Harringtons ad:


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The patterns not only cover garments of use to soldiers such as cholera belts, but items for women, children and babies. In case you always wanted to knit a cholera belt, here are instructions:

Cholera belt

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Christmas in the trenches Dominion articleThis clipping from The Dominion’s 16 July 1917 issue is a testimony of the extent of the contributions from the civilians back home. You can access the full article in the Paperspast database. Published in July, it was calling for “funds of gifts of various kinds” to ensure that soldiers on the front would receive comforting parcels from home, in time for Christmas. Plum puddings were highly prized for their capacity to travel well and their festive significance: “This year, owing to the shortage of certain classes of foodstuffs in the Motherland, these gifts, particularly plum puddings and fancy articles of food, should be more welcome than ever to the men in the fighting lines.”


Syndetics book coverOne of the most likely sources of the time for recipes of plum pudding would have been Mrs Beeton’s Every-day Cookery and Housekeeping Book as suggested in A Distant Feast : the origins of New Zealand’s cuisine by Tony Simpson (recipe p. 66).

Here are images of our own original copy of Mrs Beeton’s 1893 edition, available from our stacks on the second floor of the central library. It includes several versions of the Plum Pudding recipe (p. 379-381, pictured).

Mrs BeetonMrs Beeton Plum Pudding

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Syndetics book coverMrs Beeton was an incredibly popular influence in the  kitchens of the time and has remained a seminal influence in the art of cookery, as our collection bears testimony.
However, “her reputation as an innovator is unjustified“, according to Tony Simpson, author of A Distant Feast, who believes that Eliza Action should have claimed the title.
And indeed, Simon Hopkinson’s (British former chef and critic, considered to be one of the best cookery writers) quote on the cover of Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery for private Families stands as more than a stamp of approval: “The Author’s Christmas Pudding is as perfect as any festive pudding can be. I would not cook, nor eat I wish to eat, any other than Acton’s.” You will find her recipe p. 416 of this edition.

To read more about Eliza Acton refer to Syndetics book coverThe real Mrs Beeton : the story of Eliza Acton  by Sheila M. Hardy with foreword by Delia Smith.
For her own recipes, read Modern Cookery for private families : reduced to a system of easy practice in a series of carefully tested receipts in which the principles of Baron Liebig and other eminent writers have been as much as possible applied and explained  with an introduction by Jill Norman.

And finally, another source of recipes that has withstood the test of time is Auguste Escoffier’s A Guide to Modern Cookery. Published in English in 1907, it became a Bible for many generations of chefs and amateurs cooks. Hailed as one of the greatest chefs and food writers of all times, Escoffier redefined French cuisine and propelled it into the 20th Century, influencing cookery internationally.  Here is a photo of the 1951 reprint we hold in the stacks with Escoffier’s version of the very British Plum Pudding.

Mrs Beeton Auguste EscoffierEscoffier3

For more contemporary publications regarding “The King of Chefs and the Chef of Kings”, Escoffier’s nickname, check our catalogue here.

A very interesting documentary about Lady Liverpool and her war efforts, screened on TV3 News last August can be watched on this New Zealand History page with an accompanying article.

And for the francophiles out there, a recent episode of the highly entertaining food programme “On va déguster” produced by the French national radio station France Inter has a very informative piece on Auguste Escoffier. You can read and listen here! Bon Appétit et Joyeux Noël!