Showing posts from 2018

Women's Suffrage and Local Government

2018 marks the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. On 19 September 1893, the Electoral Act 1893 was passed, giving all women in New Zealand the right to vote. However, it would not be until 1919 that women were able to stand for election to become Members of Parliament.

To mark this anniversary, Auckland Council Archives has compiled an online exhibition which includes a timeline and photographs of the female elected representatives of the former borough, city, county, regional and district councils of the Auckland region.
On 29 November 1893, Elizabeth Yates was elected mayor of the borough of Onehunga – the first woman in the British Empire to hold such an office. The Municipal Corporations Act 1876 had given all property owners and ratepayers the right to vote and to stand for election in local government. This law made no distinction between male and female property owners, thus Elizabeth Yates chose to exercise this right and stand for office believing that she …

Acknowledging Armistice Day

On 11 November 1918, an armistice was signed between the Allies and Germany, and the guns fell silent on the Western Front. Armistice Day has been commemorated in New Zealand ever since, not only to celebrate peace but also to acknowledge the sacrifices of those who made peace possible.

The depth of this sacrifice is exemplified by the experience of one small town, Manurewa. At the outbreak of the First World War, there were about 500 people living in the area. Few if any of them were to remain unaffected by the war.

The photograph below was proudly taken on the opening day of Manurewa School, 3 September 1906. Little could it be imagined at the time that in less than a decade the ranks of the children assembled here would be significantly thinned by bullets, bayonets, sickness and bombs.

Seven of the older boys in the back row would see active service during the First World War: Walter Burton (fourth from left), Bert Ralls (sixth from left), Ted Mills (eighth), George Coxhead (tenth)…

Heritage Talks go live!

Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero | Central City Library is pleased to announce that our popular Heritage Talks programme will now be available as part of Auckland Libraries’ content on SoundCloud and YouTube.

Heritage Talks are a regular event run by Research Central and focus on topics of interest in the areas of local, family and world history. Talks are presented by a range of researchers and historians whose enthusiasm for their subjects is contagious. And now you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your home to share in the stories. Grab a cup of tea, sit back, and relax!

Each SoundCloud podcast will give a brief introduction to the speaker and topic including a talk teaser before proceeding to the talk itself. If the talk contains a significant amount of visual material then we will endeavour to make these available through YouTube. Available now is Keith Giles’ Crazy Cameramen and Profligate Photographers. As the title implies, this popular talk captures some of the colour of colonial …

The women were marvellous

In 1951 the National government used troops to run the waterfront after shipping companies locked out watersiders. The watersiders had refused overtime work in protest at a low wage offer. The dispute lasted for five months and grew to involve 22,000 workers including freezing workers and coal miners. The government announced a state of emergency, censored the media, seized union funds and outlawed support for the workers and their families.

Labour MP Mabel Howard called the emergency regulations “a war on women” as wives had to run a home without wages or support. It was forbidden to give children food. Strikers’ children at Wellington’s Clifton Terrace primary school were separated from their classmates at lunchtimes in order to prevent food-sharing.

And yet wives and children and the striking workers survived. “The women were marvellous,” was a common refrain afterwards. When asked to elaborate on how they were marvellous, many commentators dried up.

When Renée researched her 1986 p…

Commemorating - "Influenza 100"

After four years of the most horrific warfare the modern world has ever known, the First World War's end was in sight. More than 10 million soldiers were killed and around the same amount of civilians. Of the number killed, 18,000 New Zealanders had been lost on the battlefields and at sea. In a population of just over a million people, the loss of 18,000 meant that no family was left untouched.

There was a feeling of anticipation tempered with feelings of loss, for our people returning home. A cruel twist of fate meant that any celebration was curtailed, as influenza swept through the world killing upwards of 50 million people. More than the war itself.

In a couple of short months approximately 9000 (over 2000 are known to be Māori) New Zealanders succumbed to the influenza and the associated secondary infections.

Auckland was badly hit with a death rate of 7.5 per 1000 people, making an approximate total of 1128 Pakeha and 35 Māori.

Waikumete Cemetery was the main burial ground …

An influenza memorial in Manurewa

In old St Luke’s Anglican Church, Manurewa, is a poignant reminder of New Zealand’s 1918 influenza epidemic. Tucked away in one corner of the chancel is a carved and polished rimu lectern. This has a tiny brass plaque affixed which reads:

To the Glory of God
And in memory of
Dorice Whittingham
Sometime Organist of this Church
Who died for the sake of

Dorice (usually known as ‘Doris’) died on 8 December 1918 of influenza contracted while nursing patients at Papakura hospital. She had been married to local quarryman and ex-serviceman Alexander Whittingham for little more than a year.

A death notice was published in the NZ Herald the following day. A brief tribute was also published in a local newspaper:

“When the epidemic was rampant at Papakura both Mrs Whittingham and her mother volunteered assistance. The former had the advantage of having had considerable nursing experience at Te Aroha, and therefore was entrusted with some of the serious cases. About a week ago she herself …

2018 Auckland Family History Expo round-up with speakers' notes


The suffrage story of Mary Ann Gunson

Today is the 125th anniversary of the day the Electoral Act was passed into law, making Aotearoa the first self-governing nation where women could vote in parliamentary elections.

The 1893 women's suffrage petition was a huge part of the successful campaign for the vote. Over 30,000 women signed the petition - a small individual act that helped bring about a huge change for the wāhine of Aotearoa. In 2018 we celebrate the action they took by researching and telling their stories.

Below is the story of Mary Ann Gunson, who signed sheet 21 of the petition. Her signature is fourth from the top in the image below. Her biography was written and researched by Judith Corbelletto-Thompson, who attended one of our Wāhine Take Action research workshops at Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero (Central City Library) last month.

Mary Ann Gunson, sheet 21 Mary Ann Gunson (nee Bryne) was born in Glasgow about 1843. She arrived in New Zealand in 1874 aged 31 and the same year married James Gunson. She lived the …

The suffrage story of Harriett Garland

As part of our Wāhine Take Action programme celebrating the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage in Aotearoa, we recently held two suffrage story research workshops at Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero (Central City Library). The aim was to uncover stories of women who signed the 1893 women's suffrage petition -  many of whom we know little about. By researching and telling their stories we celebrate the action they took in signing the petition - an individual act that helped bring about a huge change for the wāhine of Aotearoa.

This is the story of Harriett Garland, written and researched by Donna Salmon, one of our workshop participants. Harriett's biography is also now part of the interactive display at the He Tohu exhibition and on the suffrage petition database at NZHistory.

Harriett Garland, sheet 390 Harriett Threader was born in 1854 in Brentwood, Essex, the daughter of Thomas Threader, hairdresser, and Harriett Threader (nee Girling). As a teenager, she worked as a shop assis…

The history of Chinese families and businesses in Auckland

After my father came to New Zealand in 1955 he worked in New Zealand Shipping Co Ltd’s Auckland office. Part of his job was overseeing the provisioning of the company’s ships after they had docked in Auckland. New Zealand Shipping’s fruit and vegetables were supplied by C. W. Wah Jang and Co. Ltd of 31 Queen Street. Strategically located near the wharves and just across from the Chief Post Office, Wah Jang’s did a prosperous trade in fruit and vegetables with most ships floating around the South Pacific. During the Second World War, Wah Jang’s apparently provisioned every United States Navy vessel passing through Auckland!

Helene Wong’s Heritage Talk at Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero (Central City Library) earlier this year on the history of Chinese families in Auckland helped clear up some of the mysteries about Wah Jang’s. Her talk also highlighted the racism with which New Zealand’s Chinese have always had to struggle. The tendency for Pakeha New Zealanders’ to show Anglocentric superiority …