Shirley Smith: An Examined Life



Shirley Smith: An Examined Life is available at any good bookshops and online at Victoria University Press.


‘a model of what a biography should be. … built of well-sourced facts, and those facts tell a ripping yarn.’ – Bill Hastings, New Zealand Review of Books Pukapuka Aotearoa, 26 August 2009

‘a fine and thorough biography’ – David Herkt, ‘Shirley Smith: An Examined Life: New book neatly captures her world and ideals’Sunday Star-Times, 12 May 2019.

‘An unusual life, skilfully narrated’

‘… a fascinating biography … an important contribution to aspects of New Zealand’s social history in the mid-20th century.’

‘Sarah Gaitanos has done a great job ensuring that Shirley’s legacy is remembered.’ – Simon Nathan, ‘Woman in Law‘, Scoop Review of Books, 24 April, 2019.

‘An extraordinary woman’

‘Very readable … Highly recommended’ – Holly Walker, Radio NZ Nine to Noon book review, 27 May 2019.

‘She wanted to be defined by her achievements as a person, not by her gender. Were she alive now, she may be comforted by the knowledge that she is remembered for both.’  – Yvonne van Dongen, ‘Examining Shirley Smith, the feminist lawyer married to Soviet spy Bill Sutch’, Sunday,  9 June 2019.

‘However, her greatest disadvantage was that she was a woman. The biography is a detailed and arresting account of how a woman born a hundred years ago had to cope with that handicap.’ – Brian Easton, Shirley Smith: In her Own Right, Pundit, 12 June 2019.

‘It’s a book that will be relished by history buffs polsci nerds. But the real beauty in Gaitanos’s biography was the way it acknowledged the grey areas in great people, and the frailness of life with all its contradictions.’ – Meg de Ronde, Book of the Week


Interview with Noelle McCarthy, ‘Examining the life of Shirley Smith’,  Saturday Morning with Kim Hill, Radio New Zealand, 8 June 2019.

See also my entry on Shirley Smith for the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography