Given names: 
M. R.
Given address: 
Sheet No: 407
No suburb given

Biography contributed by Dorothy Dowgray.

Mary Roberts Bailey was born in Birmingham in 1861 to William John Bailey and Emma Jane Bailey nee Lowe. Mary was their 10th child and the second child to receive that name. The Bailey family recycled several daughters’ names when a child had died in infancy. Her father’s occupation was given in 1861 as a jeweller and jobbing goldsmith - a typical occupation in the St George District of central Birmingham. Her father died in 1870 leaving Mary and her siblings living with their widowed mother and their grandfather John Palmer Bailey. Grandfather John Palmer Bailey died in 1875 and Emma Jane Lowe Bailey died in 1877. At the time of their mother’s death there were eight living children, aged from 32 years down to 12 years.

Mary Robert Bailey’s older brother and sister migrated to New Zealand in 1863, aboard the Tyburnia. Her brother William John Bailey established a farm in Maungaturoto, a pioneer in the district and her sister Eleanor Jane Bailey was housekeeper. In 1869 Eleanor Jane Bailey married Henry Cullen, another farming pioneer in Maungaturoto whom she had met in the Tyburnia. In 1879 a younger sister migrated from Birmingham to Maungaturoto, Emma Palmer Bailey, where she married John Cullen, a younger brother of Henry Cullen.

In 1886 two more Bailey sisters immigrated to New Zealand to join their family in Maungaturoto: Barbara Mary Bailey and Mary Roberts Bailey. They travelled aboard the Ruapehu and on the passenger list their occupations are given as Burnisher and General Servant. A Burnisher was a worker in the jewellry and metal trades for which Birmingham was known. In the 1881 census Mary Roberts Bailey was living with another brother in Aston, Birmingham, Josiah Henry Bailey and helping with his household as a domestic worker. With two sisters and a brother living in New Zealand and establishing families, emigration appeared an attractive prospect. Another sister Kate Clara had died in 1883, probably from complications in childbirth; sister Emily Elizabeth Bailey was a working woman, housekeeping; and another sister Fanny Lowe Bailey was married to Arthur Jones but had worked as a warehouse assistant. Both Emily Elizabeth Bailey and Fanny Lowe Jones eventually immigrated to New Zealand in 1908 and 1915 respectively. Later in 1919, Fanny Lowe Jones married her widowed brother-in-law, Henry Cullen.

Of all the Bailey sisters Mary Roberts Bailey appears to be the only one to have signed the 1893 Woman’s Suffrage petition. In the election of 1896 after the right to vote was achieved, she was living in Devonport and in domestic service there. In the 1896 election however her sister Eleanor Jane Cullen was enrolled in Maungaturoto, as was her sister Emma Palmer Cullen in Franklin. They probably both voted.

In 1904, at the age of 43, Mary Roberts Bailey married Thomas Marshall Grice who was 61. Thomas Grice was one of the original Albertland settlers and was a widower. Mary Roberts Grice lived the rest of her life in Maungaturoto where she was known to her numerous nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great nephews as 'Aunty Polly Grice'. She helped out in many households including that of my grandparent’s Jack and Hermione Cullen, especially when a new baby had been born or a mother was ill and needed help. Mary Roberts Grice, nee Bailey died in 1951 and is buried in the Maungaturoto Congregational cemetery, along with her husband Thomas Grice and her sisters Eleanor Jane Cullen, Fanny Lowe Bailey Jones Cullen, Barbara Mary Bailey and Emily Elizabeth Bailey, and their brother William John Bailey and sister-in-law Emma Barrington Bailey.


Mary Roberts Bailey, Mrs Thomas Grice, known as Aunty Polly Grice (Family collection)

Headstone for Mary Roberts Bailey, Mrs Thomas Grice, in the Maungaturoto Congregational Cemetery (Family collection)

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

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