New Zealand – Women in Science

New Zealand - Women in Science

In celebration of all the women scientists in Aotearoa New Zealand, this stamp issue highlights the remarkable work of four trailblazing women Mākereti Papakura, Lucy Moore, Joan Wiffen and Beatrice Hill Tinsley achieved in the scientific fields of ethnography, botany, palaeontology and cosmology in the 20th century. 

Born between 1873 and 1941, the women featured on these stamps achieved in the face of institutional and societal structures that often made things difficult for women. 

Mākereti Papakura drew on her whānau and consulted hapū elders to collate years of letters, notebooks and sketches that provided insights into the lives of Māori women, who were often ignored or undervalued by men writing about Māori society. New Zealand’s main science employer, the DSIR, did not employ any women as scientists until the late 1930s, when Lucy Moore was finally able to secure permanent work more than 10 years after her graduation. 

Many other women worked as unpaid research assistants to their scientist fathers or husbands, and their contributions were often not acknowledged. Even in the 1980s, when she made most of her discoveries, Joan Wiffen had trouble being taken seriously by the country’s almost exclusively male geology workforce. When Beatrice Hill Tinsley followed her husband to the United States, she shouldered the bulk of the housework and childcare responsibilities, and nepotism rules prevented her getting a job at the same university as him. 

With lives that spanned the course of the 20th century, these women scientists were trailblazers, setting out on careers of discovery and achievement in spite of the barriers they faced.

Date of issue: 2 November 2022