Wellington Amazons during the South African War

The Ladies Rifle Corps, also known as the ‘Wellington Amazons’, photographed with members of the Wellington Militia, circa 1899-1902. Standing in the back row, second from left, is ‘Sergeant’ Elizabeth Seddon, daughter of New Zealand Premier Richard Seddon.

The Wellington Amazons gained prominence after performing at a fête held by Lady Douglas at Government House in March 1900. Possibly inspired by the attire worn by Lady Sarah Wilson, a journalist in South Africa, the women wore modified versions of the troops’ uniform and appointed themselves to a range of military ranks. Under instruction from military officers, they drilled with model rifles obtained from school cadet supplies and rode decorated bicycles. Their popularity led to the creation of female ‘khaki corps’ around the country. Composed mainly of ‘society women,’ they became a popular attraction at fundraising events.

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