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Category judge convener Linda Tyler described Prof Brookes' A History of New Zealand Women (published by Bridget Williams Books) as a ''meticulously documented work'', which combined ''deep research, an immensely readable narrative, superbly well-integrated images and is distinguished by close attention to both Maori and Pakeha women''.
''Putting women at the centre of our history, this sweeping survey shows exactly when, how and why gender mattered.
''General changes in each period are combined effortlessly with the particular local stories of individual women, many not well known.
''A wider sense of women's experiences is beautifully conveyed by the many well-captioned artworks, photographs, texts and objects.''
The prize was announced last night at the 2017 Ockham awards ceremony in Auckland.
Prof Brookes said it was her first major award, and she was both delighted and surprised to have won it.
''It's my birthday, so this is the best birthday present. It's fantastic.
''I think it shows the depth of interest in women's history and it's great recognition of a way of telling the history of our country from women's point of view.''
The top award, the $50,000 Acorn Foundation fiction prize, was given to Ngaruawahia resident Catherine Chidgey for her novel The Wish Child.
Other winners. - poetry, Andrew Johnston, Fits & Starts (published by Victoria University Press); general non-fiction, Ashleigh Young, Can You Tolerate This? (Victoria University Press); best first book: illustrated non-fiction, Ngarino Ellis, A Whakapapa of Tradition: 100 Years of Ngati Porou Carving, 1830-1930 (Auckland University Press); poetry, Hera Lindsay Bird (Victoria University Press); general non-fiction, Adam Dudding, My Father's Island: A Memoir (Victoria University Press); fiction, Gina Cole, Black Ice Matter (Huia Publishers).