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Newsletter for the Point Chevalier Historical Society

No. 62 November 2018

Point Chevalier’s Link to Women’s Suffrage

in New Zealand
by Helen Pearce

The author of the definitive history of New Zealand’s world leading decision to give its women the vote, W omen’s
Suffrage in New Zealand, published by the Auckland University Press in 1972, was a Pt Chevalier girl, Patricia
Grimshaw, née Sinclair.

The Sinclair family lived in a modest bungalow , 33 Johnstone Street, down near Coyle Park. Patricia was the
youngest of 10 children, born on 16 December 1938. Her eldest brother, 15 years older than her, Keith Sinclair, be-
came professor of history at Auckland University and author of books on New Zealand history. He published his
autobiography, Halfway Round the Harbour, in 1993. The early chapters of the book give a lively account of his
large family’s life in Pt Chevalier from they arrived in 1931 (when
Keith was 9 years old). His father was a watersider who loved reading,
their mother a strong minded woman who encouraged her children to
value education, which they did with several going to university and
achieving distinguished careers.

I first met Patricia Sinclair at Pt Chevalier School in 1949 when we

were both in a combined class at Pt Chevalier School of the top stu-
dents in Standards 3 and 4, taught by Mr Laird. I was in Standard 3,
only 9 at time, and Patricia or Pat, as we knew her, would have been
10, turning 11 at the end of the year. She was not tall and had curly,
fair hair and was vivacious and friendly. I can’t remember much about
how we all got on in class but I do remember that we knew that Pat
was really very bright and to be admired. We also knew her family
was large and noteworthy, down there in Johnstone Street, with local
stories about their boisterousness.

Pat then went to Pasadena Intermediate in 1950 and then to Auckland

Girls’ Grammar School, the path I followed a year behind her. We
used to get the same tram and then bus to school, she getting on at
Johnstone Street and I at Dignan Street. We would chat about school
things on our way to school. Her career at Auckland Girls’ was out-
standing: top of her classes, Second Prefect, Dux and winner of a Uni-
versity Scholarship in 1956. Then at university, she continued her high
achieving academic career being the Senior Scholar in English and

All meetings 10.30 at 990 Great North Road, Western Springs (Horticultural Centre)

15 November 2018—Tim Carter on "The flu epidemic of 1918 and its effects"
History in 1960 and graduating with a Master of Arts in
1963. Her thesis was on women’s suffrage in New
Zealand and that led to her highly successful book,
Women’s Suffrage in New Zealand, in 1972 A member
of the History Department in the 1960s at Auckland
University, Russell Stone (historian of Logan Campbell
and Auckland), remembers her as a lively, outstanding
student. He told me her interest in women’s suffrage in
New Zealand developed from studies of women’s ac-
tivities and lives in 19th century Britain.

In 1965, Pat and her husband Roger Grimshaw, a fellow

Auckland graduate but in mathematics, moved to
Melbourne where she gained a PhD in 1987 with a
thesis on the lives of the wives of American missionar-
ies in Hawaii, also later turned into a book. She had a
long and distinguished career at the University of
Melbourne as a specialist in women’s and indigenous
people’s history. She was made an Officer of the Order
of Australia for service to the social sciences and the
humanities. A truly outstanding woman and contributor
to our knowledge of New Zealand and Australia’s histo-
ry. And it all began in Pt Chevalier and our local

Patricia Grimshaw, Women’s Suffrage in New Zea-

land, Auckland University Press, 1972.
Heather Northey, A uckland Girls’ Grammar School,
The First Hundred Years 1888-1988, AGGS Old Girls’
Association, 1988. “Seven out of ten Sinclairs: Keith, Pat, Jean, Marge,
Keith Sinclair, Halfway Round the Harbour, A n A utobi- Jack; Shirley in front; Geoff at back.” Photo from
ography, Penguin Books, 1972. Halfway round the Harbour, reproduced with

Revisting Nurse Pohlen’s on Great North Road

by Lisa J Truttman

Recently, I was approached by Betty Ann Mossop So, seeing as the last time I wrote about the nurses
who, in the course of tracking down her own story, Pohlen at Point Chevalier was back in 2009, and since
discovered her birth place was 1048 Great North Road, then information has become much easier to get to in
what was once St Catherine’s Maternity Home, run by order to flesh out the stories behind the names (and to
Nurse Annie Sophia Gillender Pohlen and her daughter clear up errors), I decided to revisit that of the Nurses
Mary Elizabeth Pohlen. She very kindly passed over Pohlen.
photos of the house today which she visited, and some
information found in an unusual place – a note found
Annie Sophia Gillender Watkins was born in 1883, to
under carpet by the present owner, on top of congol-
uem in what had been the house’s birthing room, George Eccles Watkins (1856-1942), a millhand, and
apparently written by Nurse Mary Pohlen in 1984, five Eliza. Watkins was born in Antigua, West Indies,
years before she died. according to his obituary, and came to Auckland in
1881. Ultimately he worked for the Leyland-O’Brien
“This congoleum was bought in 1925. Timber Company for 52 years. He was married twice.
Lots of babies were born in this room --
St Catherine’s Maternity Hospital 1935-1959 In 1904, Annie married John Hubert Pohlen (1874-
Nurses ASG & Nurse Mary Pohlen, Mother & 1918). A farmer in Harapepe in the mid 1890s, Pohlen
Daughter appears to have decided to settle in the Auckland
It’s been a lovely place for us -- region, taking up residence for a while with his bride
Nurse Mary and two sons (George Lawrence Watkins Pohlen, born
November 1984.” 1905, and Frederick William Pohlen born 1907) in
Manurewa as a market gardener. But around 1911 the Nurse Mary Pohlen’s note from 194, and a piece of the
family shifted to Papatoetoe, where Pohlen worked as a congoleum flooring (Sharon Eccleshall).
carrier and contractor, with his own dairy farm. Mary
Right: the front of 1048 Great North Road as it is today
Elizabeth Pohlen was born there in 1913. (photo provided by Betty Ann Mossop).
John Hubert Pohlen died after a short illness at
Auckland Hospital in September 1918, possibly leaving Annie’s son George Lawrence Watkins Pohlen, known
Annie pregnant with their youngest son. Perhaps to as Lawrence, served during World War II and was cap-
make ends meet for herself and her young family, tured during the Greece campaign. He spent the rest of
Annie took up midwifery, and passed her exams at the war in a German prisoner of war camp, but was
St Helens Hospital, Wellington, with at least 75% rate safely released in 1945. He was educated at Papatoetoe
in June 1922. The following month, she had set up and the Marist Brothers School, and later entered the
“Renfrews” on Rangitoto Road, Papatoetoe, a private service of Twigg Manufacturing Engineers, Limited.
maternity home that would be run by Nurse Annie Auckland. He was well known in Auckland yachting
Pohlen through to 1935. She advertised “skilled atten- circles, being a member of the Ponsonby and Victoria
tion, moderate fees,” and attracted customers not only Cruising Clubs. He assisted in the building of the
from Papatoetoe and nearby districts, but from as far Tamariki and sailed the vessel to victory when it won
afield as Kaipara Flats in the north, and the King the Lipton Cup a few years before the war.
Nurse Annie Pohlen died 18 January 1976 aged 92. She
In 1936 came the move to 1048 Great North Road, Pt and her daughter Mary Elizabeth (who died 5 July
Chevalier. Colin Woollam Anderson originally sold the 1989) are buried at Mangere Cemetery. The Great
property to Harold Frederick Lowndes, a contractor, North Road property finally left direct Pohlen family
who built a bungalow there in 1929. This was sold to a ownership in December 1989.
carpenter named Percy Sawyer, who then sold the prop-
erty to Nurse Pohlen in 1943. Her daughter Mary joined Sincere thanks to Betty Ann Mossop, and to Sharon
her there by 1938 as a nurse, and the two worked to- Eccleshall for the photo of the note and the congoleum.
gether for most of the next two decades.
NZ Herald 10 January 1938

NZ Herald 17 January 1938

Next issue due out January 2019

Contact Lisa Truttman (editor) : 19 Methuen Road,
Avondale, Auckland 0600, phone (09) 828-8494
or email

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