To mark 125 years since New Zealand women won the vote, award-winning Tauranga author Debbie McCauley has released a non-fiction bilingual children's book on her suffragist ancestor.

Eliza and the White Camellia: A Story of Suffrage in New Zealand tells the story of Debbie's fourth great aunt, suffragist Eliza Wallis (née Hart), a first-wave feminist who actively sought the vote for women.

Eliza also happens to be the grandmother of Ynys Fraser (née Wallis) QSM, of Rotorua, who on August 3 this year turned 101 years old.

Ynys is related through her father, Wilfred Stanley Wallis OBE, who was the youngest of Eliza Wallis and her husband John's twelve children. This Saturday at 2.30pm, Ynys will attend the book launch at Tauranga City Library, along with her son Iain.


"I was so pleased to receive her blessing for the book," Debbie said.

"Ynys will be the guest of honour."

Wellington artist Helen Casey illustrated the period-setting book which was translated into te reo Māori by Tamati Waaka, and skilfully laid out by designer Sarah Elworthy.

Debbie said she had always been fascinated by her suffrage connection.

Debbie won a Women's Suffrage Centennial Year Scholarship in 1993.

"Women's history is often more difficult to uncover, but I hope I have done Eliza's story justice."

On 13 April 1896, Eliza attended a women's convention held in the Provincial Council Buildings in Christchurch. Eleven women's groups from throughout New Zealand had sent representatives to the convention, during which the National Council of Women (NCW) was formed. Eliza was one of the founding members and the first president was fellow suffragist and Eliza's friend, Kate Sheppard.

Eliza appears in the first photographs taken of the NCW, including the delegates to the women's convention, and another taken outside the council chamber.


Debbie is on the Suffrage 125 Tauranga committee which has organised various exhibitions and events in Tauranga this year, including talks by former Prime Minister and United Nations Development Programme Administrator, Rt Hon Helen Clark, and MP Jan Tinetti who has been invited to speak at the book launch.

Tauranga bookshop Books A Plenty have a window display of Eliza and the White Camellia: A Story of Suffrage in New Zealand in support of Suffrage 125. The book is available from all good bookshops throughout Aotearoa, and through Debbie's indie publishing business, Mauao Publishing.

There will be a prize for the best-dressed suffragist at the book launch, to which people have been asked to RSVP via Eventbrite.