Mayoress’s War Memorial Library, Auckland

Mayoress’s War Memorial Library, Auckland

During the First World War, members of New Zealand’s various Patriotic Leagues distributed books to members of the armed forces.

After the war members of the Auckland Women’s Patriotic League’s Literature Committee resolved to extend the service to include disabled soldiers and sailors, lighthouse keepers, men in the mercantile marine, inmates of hospitals, orphanages, and even backblocks settlers. On 15 June 1920, under the patronage of Mrs Jessie Gunson, wife of Auckland mayor J.H. Gunson, they formed the Mayoress’ War Memorial Library Committee, later renamed the Mayoress’ Library League.

This established its base in the Auckland Town Hall. Its main activity was collecting books and raising funds to buy books. It set up several committees: the St John Ambulance Committee to distribute books and magazines to sick and disabled soldiers and seamen in hospitals and to soldier settlers; the Navy League and Flying Angel Mission Committee to serve men in the navy and merchant navy; the Victoria League Committee to serve country schools and backblocks settlers (this committee also sent a batch to Niue Island); the Civic League Committee to serve children in hospitals and orphanages; and the Philanthropic Committee to serve various other homes and institutions, including jails. Toys and dolls were sometimes distributed as well.

The Mayoress’ Library League celebrated its 25th birthday in April 1945. It wound up its affairs a year later. By then it had distributed a total of 96,425 books and 150,892 magazines. Former members held what they called a “final reunion” in February 1956.

Sources: ‘Memorial Library: Perpetuating Women’s Work’, Auckland Star, 16/6/1920, p. 7; ‘Final Reunion of the Library League’, NZ Herald, 1/3/1956.

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