A new book about the founding of the Te Arawa Women's Health League in 1937 hopes to help to make sense of the past and lead to a greater and deeper understanding of the present.

Two years' research into the history of the Te Arawa Women's Health League has gone into the book which launched earlier this month in a ceremony at the Rotorua Lakes Council Galleria.

The Te Arawa Women's Health League was founded by district nurse Robina Cameron with the support of Te Arawa elders in the Rotorua district in 1937. The league's focus was the health of Maori women and children working through marae-based women's committees.

In a speech at the launch Dr Laurie Morrison said neither the exhibition or the book would have been possible without the manaaki of the women featured or the many whanau members who participated.

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"Thank you for welcoming me into your homes, sharing your stories at length and the laughter was priceless."

It took a number of Maori trusts to make the book possible including Te Roopu o Te Ora (Women's Health League), Ngati Whakaue Endowment Trust, Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust, Ngati Whakaue Tribal Lands, Te Tahuna, Rotoiti 15, Whangamoa Trust, Rotoma No1, Tautara Matawharua, Paehinahina Mourea, Te Runanga Ngati Kea/Ngati Kearoa, Te Roro o Te Rangi Trust and First Sovereign Trust Ltd.

Morrison gave particular thanks to Ann Somerville.

"For editing my writings, her generous wisdom and delicious lemon and date muffins."

She said the book took readers back to a time when every marae had a ngaio tree outside, generally used as a form of shelter for visiting manuhiri and for children to play under while whanau were inside the tupuna whare.

"Imagine this poignant picture, foundation members Maraea Rangiteorere, Ngatepara (Florence Kingi), Ngahuia Rangititiaho Pururu, Wahanga Grant, Alice Fitness and Kamerana (Nurse Cameron) sitting under a ngaio tree at taheke."

Morrison said that's how far back the health league went, to talks under the big ngaio tree.

"This book reflects the lives of women and children in the 1930s and early 1940s who were founding members as recorded in the 1937 Women's Health League minute books.

"The sisterhood, warmth, laughter and aroha Maori and Pakeha women felt for each other in the decades before World War II permeates the stories you have just read.

"There are tears too: the loss of children, deaths of men at war, of mothers who died too young, the loss of tribal land, and the effect of illness and poverty on people."

She said the book was about sharing the tales of brave pioneer Maori and non-Maori women that will reveal knowledge and aroha passed through the generations to descendants today.

"Education rated highly to these women, who placed great importance on it. They knew that embracing the best of both the Maori and Pakeha worlds were central to the success of their children."