15th July 1843

Author Ellen Anne Hewett is born

Ellen Hewett, born Ellen Baker, was just 12 when she emigrated from Jersey to New Zealand, along with the rest of her family. It was a long voyage that took them from Jersey to Liverpool and, from there, to Melbourne on the Earl of Sefton. That was only a stop-off, though, on a journey that would eventually land her in Nelson, New Zealand.

She wrote her early life story in a short book called Looking Back, which became an immediate best-seller, and remained in print long after her death. Ellen Baker became Ellen Hewett when, aged 15, she was married to a man of 26 – a marriage arranged by her parents. Her life, between moving to New Zealand and her marriage, had consisted of looking after her sick father, but now she moved with her new husband to a remote farm.

Devastating fires

Times were hard and she twice lost all of her belongings – along with those of the rest of the family – in a pair of house fires. Then, aged just 22, she was widowed when her husband was murdered and ritually mutilated. Left to bring up her children alone, with no source of income, she moved to the United Kingdom but, within 15 years, returned to New Zealand and threw herself wholeheartedly into religious work. She was also active in the temperance movement, working with Maori women who had pledged not to consume alcohol, and supported universal suffrage, signing a petition calling on all New Zealand women aged 21 and above to be given the vote.

Ellen Hewett died on 14 February 1926. She is buried in Auckland, New Zealand.


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