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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Nailed Boots and Crinoline Gowns by Robert Peden

What a fascinating book! Using diaries, letters and memoirs, Nailed Boots and Crinoline Gowns brings to life real women in rural colonial New Zealand, and their extraordinary lives starting on the other side of the world in a place that was rugged and uncompromising.

Many histories of colonial history have sidelined the many women who came to our shores, but historian Robert Peden puts them centre stage in this well written book. It shows women who were industrious partners to their men in farming and business, and they were not just busy with domestic chores. These are women who toiled long and hard, often shoulder to shoulder with the menfolk, at the same times as caring for their families.

The text is interspersed with photos, so we get to see images of some of these courageous women, starting life afresh so far from their original homes. For most their trip here was a one-way voyage, and once here, the rural life was one of survival on the rural frontier, sometimes living in isolated places, which was especially risky when it came to childbirth. Life as a woman in these early colonial days was not for the fainthearted.

The author covers courtship and marriage, how these women managed their homes and families, and for some, he shares their successes in farming and business.

Many women stood out in this important book. Emilie Monrad, whose family came to New Zealand from Denmark, from a life of privilege to one of hardship. Martha Adams spent nearly five years living in a remote sheep station, where she gave birth to two sons. Margaret Gardner successfully took over her husband’s business after he died in 1885. There are many more women featured.

This is an excellent book and a must read for anyone interested in stories of nineteenth century New Zealand and some of the women who made their homes here.


Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Fraser Books



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