Her Life's Work

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More About This Title Her Life's Work


Spanning the impressive careers of five notable New Zealand women, this uncommon examination portrays the lives of Merimeri Penfold, Margaret Mahy, Anne Salmond, Gaylene Preston, and Jacqueline Fahey. Having each carved out their own distinguished reputations as artists, writers, teachers, filmmakers, and thinkers, this investigation demonstrates how each of them has balanced a professional life with a personal one. In five in-depth interviews, this record explores their families, education, the impact intimate relationships have on their creativity, and how each juggles life's demands. Reflecting on immense changes in society throughout their lifetimes, this biographical account illustrates the second half of the 20th century, capturing how it directly affected the women’s professional and personal lives. Touching on major events and challenges, this study also depicts the Land March in 1975, the rise of feminism, and the genesis of Indigenous rights movements. With five stunning new photographic portraits by renowned photographer Marti Friedlander, this is a striking example of how those who grappled with sexism, glass ceilings, and domestic expectation still found the balance to lead fruitful public lives in the arts and academia.


Deborah Shepard is the instructor of a life-writing course for continuing education at the University of Auckland. She is the author of Reframing Women: A History of New Zealand Film and the editor of Between the Lives: Partners in Art.