Given names: 
Mary De Renzy
Given address: 
North Belt
Sheet No: 201
St Albans

Biographical information provided by Jared Davidson for the He Tohu exhibition:

Mary De Renzy Newton was born in County Wexford, Ireland in 1851, the eldest daughter of Katherine and George Gordon, who was later the first town clerk of Christchurch. With her parents she came to New Zealand aboard the Zealandia, arriving at Lyttelton in September 1858.

In 1875 Mary married Arthur Charles Newton, who died in 1888 (aged 35) after years of trouble with alcoholism. Left a widow, she took on Canterbury College boarders at her home on Carlton Mill Corner to make ends meet. One of these boarders was Ernest Rutherford, who later married Mary's daughter Mary Georgina (known as May) Newton. Ernest was staying with Mary Senior when the vote was won in September 1893, and she was very proud of his scientific success.

Alcoholism was one of the reasons Mary was devoted to work on social issues and temperance up until a few days of her death. Her obituary described her as 'a woman of outstanding ability, and was endowed with the qualities of leadership.' Mary was a foundation member of the Christchurch Branch of the Women's Christian Temperance Union and was the branch secretary for its first eight years. She represented New Zealand at the world conference of the WCTU in Geneva, and was a major influence on many younger women of the movement, 

She was also a firm believer in women's franchise, speaking alongside Kate Sheppard at various mass meetings. Ernest's brother George recalled 'long yarns' with Mary about 'socialism, Brotherhood of man, prohibition etc.', while her obituary noted that Mary's 'energy and intellect were equalled by her kindness of heart and her readiness to help others.' 

Upon her death in June 1933, Mary had three sons (William, George, and Charles), daughter Mary, seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

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

'Mary De Renzy Newton', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 2-Oct-2017

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