Mary Ferguson

Lady Ferguson and her husband Sir Lindo Ferguson with their grandchildren, in 1932.

A prominent Dunedin citizen, Lady Mary Ferguson was involved in many charitable groups throughout her lifetime, chief among them the Otago Women’s Club. The club’s first president, she organised large-scale fundraising efforts for Belgium, returned servicemen and children. As a public figure she spoke at a number of events and took responsibility for organising a number of women to canvass the city to raise funds for the people of Belgium. Mary Ferguson was awarded the Médaille de la Reine Elisabeth (Queen Elisabeth Medal) for her tireless support of Belgium during the First World War.

Family information

Parents: John Leach Butterworth and Jane Ackland Butterworth (née Marchant)
Born: 21 February 1864
Died: 29 December 1944, aged 80
Buried: Northern Cemetery, Dunedin, Block 120, Plot 4 (cremated)
Married: Henry Lindo Ferguson, 1884

Children:

  • Annie Esther Ferguson, b. 1886 d. 1886
  • Gerald Lindo Ferguson, b. 1888

Active in: Dunedin 

Obituary/death notices

1.

The death occurred early this morning of Lady Mary Emmeline Ferguson, the wife of Sir Lindo Ferguson, who for over half a century was an outstanding figure at the Otago Medical School and the dean of the medical faculty for 23 years.

Born on February 21, 1864, Lady Ferguson was the eldest daughter of the late Mr and Mrs J. L. Butterworth, of Dunedin. She was educated at a private school in Dunedin and at Wimbledon Common, London, and always took a leading part in women’s affairs in the community. For six years, from 1913, she was a member of the Dunedin Hospital Board, being one of the first women in New Zealand to be elected to a hospital board. When the Otago Women’s Club was formed 30 years ago she was its first president, a position which she held till the time of her death, endearing herself to the members by her gracious, charming manner and her able direction of club activities. During the last war Lady Ferguson was president of the women’s branch of the Overseas Club, and was a New Zealand Dame of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem. She was a member of the Red Cross Committee from the time of its inception, and was president of the Otago Health Camp for Children, Waikouaiti. On November 20 of this year Sir Lindo and Lady Ferguson celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of their marriage, which took place at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin, in 1884, and a cable from their Majesties, King George and Queen Elizabeth, letters from the Governor-General, Sir Cyril Newall, and Lady Newall, as well as many messages of congratulation from a wide circle of friends, were received during the day. Lady Ferguson is survived by her husband, a son, Mr Gerald Ferguson, and a grandson and granddaughter.

Evening Star, 30 December 1944

2.

Lady Ferguson – A very great gap in the social circles of this district will be caused by the death of Lady Ferguson, which we regret to have to announce. For many years Lady Ferguson might have been truthfully described as Dunedin’s unofficial hostess. To her successive municipal authorities confidently turned for assistance in providing for the entertainment of visitors of distinction to Dunedin. They did not appeal in vain. She was ever ready to discharge any duty which she might be asked to accept in order that suitable provision might be made for the stay of important personages in Dunedin. Under their hospitable roof Sir Lindo Ferguson and she entertained a succession of Governors-General that extended over a considerable number of years. Her features and figure, which would have commanded attention in any gathering of beautiful women, her gracious personality, her unfailing tact, the extent of her knowledge, the breadth of her sympathies, and her lively sense of humour constituted an equipment that especially qualified her for the position of leadership that by common consent was occupied by her. In 1913 she was persuaded to offer herself as a candidate for one of the six Dunedin-West seats on the Otago Hospital Board, and she was returned at the head of the poll. She was re-elected with increased support in 1915 and again in 1917, but she retired from the board two years later. She was prominently associated with the St. John Ambulance Association and with the Red Cross, and was honoured with appointment to the rank of Lady of Grace in the Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

An active part was taken by her in the formation of the Otago Women’s Club in 1914, and she was elected to the first president of that institution. Under the stimulating influence of her able guidance the club from the first enjoyed the warm interest of the women of the community, and its membership increased rapidly to a degree that gave it by far the largest roll among the women’s clubs of the Dominion. If Lady Ferguson found cause for pride in the growth, the vigour, and the attractiveness of the club, with its many amenities and the opportunities provided through its various groups for relaxation and mutual improvement and entertainment, the members for their part were intensely proud of their president and deeply attached to her, and through the long years of its existence the thought of replacing her by someone else in their number does not seem to have ever entered their minds. So it is that the Otago Women’s Club has had one president only during the 30 years of its existence – she its beloved head whose kindliness of nature and charm of manner had endeared her to all of them and whom they will deeply mourn today.

Lady Ferguson was the eldest daughter of Mr J. L. Butterworth, founder of the firm of Butterworth Bros., which was engaged in the wholesale soft-goods business for many years in Dunedin. She was married in St. Paul’s Pro-Cathedral in November, 1884, and consequently the sixtieth anniversary of her wedding was celebrated a few weeks ago. The excitement of the occurrence of an event so infrequent as this was followed by a decline in her health, already impaired by a prolonged and painful experience of a rheumatic condition, and from that time she gradually lost strength. Her husband, one son (Mr Gerald L. Ferguson), and a grandson and granddaughter survive her.

Otago Daily Times, 2 January 1945, p. 4

 

Selected sources

'Women in Public Life', Otago Daily Times, 1 March 1915, p. 4

'The Belgian Fund', Otago Daily Times, 23 March 1915, p. 8

'Gift Clothing for the Belgians', Otago Daily Times, 23 July 1915, p. 3

'Sports Queen', Otago Daily Times, 9 August 1915, p. 3

'Women's Christmas Temperance Union', Otago Daily Times, 6 October 1915, p. 9

'Women's National Reserve', Otago Daily Times, 11 March 1916, p. 11

NZ Women’s Weekly, 14 June 1934, pp. 4–5

Otago Daily Times, 21 November 1934

'Honour Conferred', Auckland Star, 25 November 1936, p. 14

Evening Star, 20 November 1944

Evening Star, 30 December 1944

Otago Daily Times, 2 January 1945, p. 4

Evening Star, 29 September 1945

 

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