A 101-year-old Rotorua woman has helped launch a book about her grandmother, a suffragette 125 years ago, who helped New Zealand women become the first in the world to vote.

Eliza Wallis (nee Hart) was part of the "monster petition" of 32,000 signatures presented to New Zealand Parliament in 1893, prompting the passing of the women's franchise law.

She was one of the founding members of the National Council of Women in 1896 and was a friend of Kate Sheppard, the council's first president.

On Saturday , Wallis' granddaughter Ynys Fraser QSM was the guest of honour at Debbie McCauley's launch of the non-fiction bilingual children's book Eliza and the White Camellia: A Story of Suffrage in New Zealand at Tauranga City Library.

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Debbie McCauley and Ynys Fraser, 101 at Eliza and the White Camellia book launch. Photo / George Novak
Debbie McCauley and Ynys Fraser, 101 at Eliza and the White Camellia book launch. Photo / George Novak

McCauley, an award-winning author, is also one of Wallis' descendants.

The suffragette was her fourth great aunt.

McCauley's book covers major events in Wallis' life from her birth in 1846, including poverty, emigration, elections, illegitimate children, women and the vote, the trial of Minnie Dean and the formation of the National Council of Women, concluding the month following the start of World War I.

Ynys Fraser. Photo / George Novak
Ynys Fraser. Photo / George Novak

Ynys Fraser's father Wilfred Stanley Wallis OBE was the youngest of Eliza Wallis and her husband John's twelve children.

Fraser has spent 99 of her 101 years in the Rotorua area.

A 101-year-old Rotorua woman has helped launch a book about her grandmother, a suffragette 125 years ago, who helped New Zealand women become the first in the world to vote.

She told the Rotorua Daily Post today she was "very proud" of her family heritage.

"Throughout the generations, in various ways, all of them are forward thinking."

Eliza Wallis died before Ynys was born, and Fraser didn't realise how important her grandmother's trailblazing was until her late teens.

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"I became interested in politics myself, and all that sort of jazz. When you're young you join this union and that union and marches... I was always marching for something. The League of Nations, or some of the other overseas organisations for peace. "

Fraser's father motivated his children to stand up for social justice, the way Eliza had.

"We were all interested in what was going in, affairs both in New Zealand and the wider world."

Debbie McCauley with her book, on the right, and with the Suffrage 125 Tauranga book, on the left. Photo / File
Debbie McCauley with her book, on the right, and with the Suffrage 125 Tauranga book, on the left. Photo / File

Debbie McCauley has also followed in Eliza's footsteps.

McCauley won a Women's Suffrage Centennial Year Scholarship in 1993 and is on the Suffrage 125 Tauranga committee.

She said "women's history is often more difficult to uncover" but "I've always been fascinated by my suffrage connection".