suffrage_petition
Surname: 
von Dadelszen
Given names: 
Laura
Given address: 
Browning Street Napier
Sheet No: 461
Town/Suburb: 
Napier
City/Region: 
Hawke's Bay
Notes: 

Biography and images contributed by Nigel Murphy, a great-grandson of Laura.

Laura Theresa Hargrave was born in 1858 at the family farm at Mangakuri, Hawke's Bay, the second of three children of William Frederick Hargrave and Laura Moir. Her birth is not registered, possibly because the farm was so distant from any place of registration. 

Laura’s father, William Frederick Hargrave, was born in London in 1826.  His parents were William Hargrave, a merchant, and Ann Debalde. In 1850, at Cowes on the Isle of Wight, William Frederick, aged 24, married 23-year-old Laura Moir, who had been and raised on the Isle of Wight.  It’s possible the two got to know each other as both were Quakers.  

In 1851 William Frederick and Laura emigrated to New Zealand, arriving at Lyttlelton on the Fatima on 27 December.  The following year they moved to Wellington where William took up a job as a clerk in the Crown Lands Office.  A son, Ronald, was born there in 1853.  Like many emigrants of that period William decided to try his hand at farming. In 1855 he took up land at Mangakuri in the Hawke's Bay.  Unfortunately, this venture was not a success and in 1858 he was forced to leave the property.  It is not known where they lived or what William Frederick did for a living for the next eight years. 

Between 1858 and 1862 two further children were born, both girls.  In 1867 the family moved to Waimarama, and between 1869 and 1873 William Frederick is listed as farming at Wharerangi and Woodthorpe.  In 1875 the family moved again, this time to Ormond, in Poverty Bay, where William Frederick bought another farm. 

On 16 October 1875, at the Hargrave family residence at Ormond, Laura Theresa, aged 17, married the 27-year-old Otto Daniel von Dadelszen, a bank manager with the Gisborne branch of the Union Bank. Otto had migrated to New Zealand with his family from Liverpool in 1860.  Otto’s father had been born in Hamburg, Germany, and Otto was born and raised in Liverpool. 

Between 1878 and 1882 the couple had three children: Frederick Otto in 1878, Herman Ronald in 1880, and Laura Kate in 1882.  During these years the family moved to Auckland, Thames, Opotiki and finally back to Auckland in 1882. In either late 1882 or early 1883 Laura separated from Otto, taking her three children to her brother Ronald's dairy farm at Kihikihi, near Te Awamutu, where she kept house. The separation had been brought about by Otto's persistent unfaithfulness and excessive drinking. Otto was never heard from again following the break-up of the marriage. He died in Sydney in 1918, in a home for destitute alcoholics, and buried in the paupers’ section of Sydney’s Rockwood cemetery. 

Some years after moving in with Ronald, Laura and the children moved to Clive in the Hawke's Bay. Laura appears to have been something of an early feminist.  She never remarried, signed the 1893 Women's franchise petition (the only female member of the family to do so), and for many years called herself by her maiden name of Hargrave.  She regarded herself as an independent woman, calling herself a 'gentlewoman' on the 1893 electoral roll.  

Laura supported herself and her children by working as a librarian, later becoming chief librarian of the Athenaeum Library in Napier. The family lived above the Library and apparently the staircase was a popular meeting place for young courting couples. According to her grandson John von Dadelszen, Laura 'had a soft heart for the young and would discreetly turn a blind eye'. 

Laura sent her two sons Frederick and Herman to Te Aute College, a boarding school for Māori.  When they enrolled in 1892 they were the only Pākehā boys there.  It is not known why Laura sent her sons to Te Aute, it may have been something to do with finances.  Her daughter Laura Kate suffered a mental breakdown while in her teens, and spent the rest of her life in an institution in Porirua.  

At some point Laura’s sister Ada Constance Dixon moved in with her. The two sisters lived together for many years. Laura died at Napier on 11 February 1925, aged 67, survived by her three children, and a number of grandchildren. Ada died three years later, on 10 June 1928. The two sisters are buried together in the Park Island cemetery, their headstones facing each other in the same plot, Ada’s headstone bearing the text ‘sister of Laura von Dadelszen.’

Laura von Dadelszen

Laura von Dadelszen

Otto von Dadelszen

Otto von Dadelszen.

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

'Laura von Dadelszen', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/suffragist/laura-von-dadelszen, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 18-Jan-2018

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