retell forgotten stories

In school we learned about Joseph Lister but not safe sex campaigner Ettie Rout; of Scott of the Antarctic but not Mt Cook Conqueror Freda Du Fraur; of Thomas Bracken but not Jessie McKay; of Sir Apirana Ngata but not Te Puea Herangi, of Hone Heke but not Heni Pore. By the time feminist consciousness had dawned on me in the 60s and 70s there were a lot of women I wished I had known - Kate Sheppard, Emily Seideberg, Ethel Benjamin, Grace Neill, Iriaka ratana, Ellen Melville, Mary Ann Muller, Elsie Locke, Polly Plum, Robin Hyde, Amey Daldy, Anna Stout
— Marcia Russell - Book of the century

A letter for Elizabeth Yates from the Queen of England

In 1893 Elizabeth Yates accepted nomination for the office of mayor of Onehunga. She defeated her sole opponent, F. W. Court, at the election of 29 November, to become the first woman mayor in the British Empire. This radical departure from convention caused much comment throughout New Zealand and the empire, and Yates received congratulations from Premier Richard Seddon and Queen Victoria. We're guessing Queen Victoria was secretly stoked to see a woman become Mayor - it must have been lonely for a woman like her at the top.

In 2018 the Internet allows us to piece together forgotten stories of our past

The truth is if you have a name and some idea of the story behind the woman you want to know about her story is often there in bits and pieces. Papers Past for a reference to a wedding, Births Deaths and Marriages for a record of a Marriage and a maiden name; another search in Papers Past for a woman of the correct name and over to Digital NZ for photographs of anyone of the same name. Suddenly a whole picture can open up. It might still only be in pieces but it allows us to build small pictures of stories previously invisible. To demonstrate we've used environmentalist, author and National Park Founder - Perrine Moncrieff. But if you're up for the challenge - the story of  Lucy Gordon in Mr W J Napier's letter (found in your kit) can also be discovered this way.  


This Research Task is about piecing together stories - it requires perseverance and an awareness that you'll need to put things together, cross reference, sort, re-sort and re-frame what you're searching for. We encourage you to practice on environmentalist, Perrine Moncrieff.  Follow the steps below to see how many pieces of her story you can find.

Look for images

A great place to start searching for images is with DigitalNZ. This site pulls together reliable digital collections from libraries, museums, galleries, government departments, the media and community groups around the country. Use it to search a lot of things fast. Searching for 'Perrine Moncrieff' gave us 42 results - a great place to start.

Search for sound, video and stories

Always double check in Nga Taonga Sound and Vision and NZ on Screen. Between them these two sites hold a collection of film, radio, television, sound recordings, props and documents spanning 120 years of Aotearoa’s sound and moving image history. Ironically Perrine appears twice - once in the 1993 documentary Standing in the Sunshine and once...talking about her father #invisiblestories

Google, Papers Past and the DNZB

Keep an eye out for any DNZB articles - they'll always provide you with great clues. Google's great but search Papers Past with a specific key word(s) and you might just get a piece of the puzzle you weren't expecting. Who knew this trailblazing environmentalist, National Park founder and published author would also be famous for walking the streets of Nelson with a parrot on her shoulder.

Stories to start you on your research journey

Jean Batten





Beatrice  Tinsley






Media Mogul


Joong Chew Li


Business Mastermind


Rosetta Baume


Political Strategist

Eva Rickard



Grace Neill



Health Advocate

Elizabeth Yates




Data Sentence 1.jpg

the data

Data is power. The power to tell stories. The power to understand the world. Access to data can tell you about your place in the world, how you measure up, what's available to you and what's happening to you. Take a look at how things stack up


tell the story

Whether you've been working on this task or the icon tasks in the Know section of this website, this is all about making space for the women in the stories we tell about the past because this makes us look around us for women's stories in the stories we tell about our future. So...find the pieces of the story, put them together and share them - online, within your community or with your voice.  There are some remarkable women out there - enjoy discovering them.


Piece a story together -find as many pieces of the puzzle as you can.

Just like what we did with Perrine Moncrieff above - choose a name or a portrait that intrigues you.  Remember Grace Canton's Under/Over method for assessing representation.  Check that the stories you are investigating are diverse. If you can find a name then you can probably find a source online that will give you a clue for where to head next. Remember we're aiming for text, newspaper, film, sound, images and secondary sources as well - biographies, articles, references.  Make the picture you build as broad as you can.


Create a Hall of Fame for your invisible stories. 

You might want to choose some of the women you discover for your own in-school Exhibition. For those that don't make the cut consider building an online Hall of Fame with something as simple as a Pinterest Board or a Tumblr Site.  If we're going to get serious about making space for the stories of our past we need to make it so that more people than just your classmates can find them.  When pieces of a story are stitched together to form a full picture and then shared online they become discoverable.  Don't be scared - start a movement #invisblestories.


Create a portrait - 'Our Wahine' Styles - of your rediscovered woman.

Everywhere we look it seems that to be one of the cool kids you need to be creating caricatures of iconic women who changes the world. Your portrait of your rediscovered story can sit alongside the icons that you and other students in the KNOW section of this website. While we're not suggesting even for one second that the very talented Kate Hursthouse used an app to create her beautiful portraits we are suggesting you join the caricature trend via app based means  unless of course you are an awesome artist in which case 100% be our guest.

For the rest of us mere mortals we suggest immortalising your iconic women via a free app that transforms photos into caricatures.