Given names: 
Given address: 
Schoolhouse St Albans
Sheet No: 176
St Albans

Biographical information provided by Briar Barry for the He Tohu exhibition:

Born in 1837, Ellen Swaine married James Speight in England, aged 22. They immigrated to New Zealand around 1870, initially settling on the Banks Peninsula where James was headmaster of Little Akaloa School and the town's postmaster, although it is thought that Ellen probably did the bulk of the postal work.

By 1893 James was Headmaster of St. Albans School (hence Ellen’s given address as Schoolhouse St). Ada Wells, a prominent figure in the women’s suffrage movement and the first woman to become a Christchurch City councillor, also taught at the school. She might have encouraged Ellen to sign.

At 72, Ellen fell ill. James put her in a horse and cart and drove her round the paddock to see whether she was fit to make the trip to hospital in town. She died on 24 February 1909.

Ellen and James' son Robert Speight, a geologist, lectured at Canterbury University and was a curator at Canterbury Museum. He was a favourite uncle, by marriage, of detective writer Ngaio Marsh and Mount Speight in the Southern Alps is named after him.

Click on sheet number to see the 1893 petition sheet this signature appeared on. Digital copies of the sheets supplied by Archives New Zealand.

How to cite this page

'Ellen Speight', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 31-Aug-2017

Community contributions

No comments have been posted about Ellen Speight

What do you know?