Today, 125 years ago, women in New Zealand exercised their hard-won right to vote for the first time.

The event is being marked in Tauranga by the release of two books by local women.

Western Bay Women - A Celebration of 125 Years of Women's Suffrage has been put together by the Suffrage 125 Tauranga committee this year.

Committee member Fiona Kean said the book profiled 40 Western Bay women, asking each the same five questions about their lives and worldview.

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Kean said the committee had aimed to get a cross-section of people.

The women profiled included sports stars Gemma McCaw and Luuka Jones, performer Marion Arts, author Susan Brocker, archaeologist Brigid Gallagher, local leaders Anne Pankhurst and Mary Dillon, health campaigner Leisa Renwick, inspirational swimmer Amanda Lowry, Māori education leader Hiriwa Irene Eva Curnow and business owner Shelley Foster.

Images of women from Tauranga's history also feature.

The book, produced with funding of around $7000 from Tauranga City Council, as well as support from Heartland Bank and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage suffrage fund, will not be sold but copies will be distributed to local libraries, schools and community organisations.

A private event will be held tonight to thank the women who contributed.

The top book profiles 40 Western Bay women, while the bottom book is Debbie McCauley's work about her suffrigist ancestor, Eliza Wallis. Photo / George Novak
The top book profiles 40 Western Bay women, while the bottom book is Debbie McCauley's work about her suffrigist ancestor, Eliza Wallis. Photo / George Novak

Tauranga author Debbie McCauley looked into her own family history to produce a bilingual, non-fiction children's book, Eliza and the White Camellia: A Story of Suffrage in New Zealand.

The book tells the story of McCauley's fourth great aunt, suffragist Eliza Wallis (née Hart), a first-wave feminist who actively sought the vote for women.

Through a read-aloud story, illustrations by Wellington artist Helen Casey, factboxes and political cartoons from the time, the book tells the story of Wallis' role in the founding of the National Council of Women and the suffragist movement.

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The book was translated into te reo Māori by Tamati Waaka, laid out by designer Sarah Elworthy and published by Mauao Publishing.

It will be launched on December 1 at Tauranga City Library and be available for sale in bookstores.