Given names: 
Given address: 
Colombo Street
Sheet No: 212
Central Christchurch

Biography contributed by John Dunbier, great-grandson to Jessie Monroe

My Great-Grandmother Jessie Watt was born on 23 May 1857 in the village of Kippen, Stirlingshire, Scotland. On 20 September 1858 Jessie, aged one, with her parents, seven sisters, one brother and two cousins departed Plymouth on the clipper ship Clontarf for a 105-day voyage to Lyttelton. She was fortunate to be on the first New Zealand voyage of the ill-fated ship. On the second trip many children died when a rampant plague of measles, whooping cough and tropical diseases swept mercilessly through the ship.

The Watt family settled on a small farm at Fernside, North Canterbury. They cultivated their land with a donkey and a cow harnessed to a plough with a child leading each animal. Their first crop was seeded with the 'eyes' saved from potato peelings.

Jessie’s father, Alexander, died when she was 10 and her mother, Sophia, died when she was 15.

Jessie married William Monroe on 13 January 1875. William was a 'remittance man' who was paid 5-pounds a week by his prominent family to stay far away from Ireland and Newfoundland.

Jessie Monroe signed Sheet 212 of the Suffrage Petition in 1893 but it is unlikely that she had many opportunities to fulfil any feminist ideals. In 1924 she took her husband to court for a maintenance order on the ground of 'failure to maintain'. Newspapers reported: 'she gave evidence that she had 14 children, and that her husband, who was 82 years of age, received £280 per year from the estates of brothers in Newfoundland. She had been married about 50 years and of late the defendant had failed to maintain her properly. She had received no money from him for the last six weeks. He drank a good deal and often came home drunk.'

The Magistrate’s decision showed that after three decades the Suffrage Petition had done little to change the gender balance of power: the complaint was dismissed!

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

'Jessie Monroe', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 25-Sep-2018

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