Given names: 
Given address: 
Majoribank Street
Sheet No: 337
Mt Victoria

This biography was contributed by Kate Jordan.

Sara Dimant was born in 1861 in Ballarat, Australia to Alexander and Kate (nee Samuels) Dimant. She was probably the fourth child of six children.

In 1869, Sara’s father Alexander moved to Hokitika. A few months later, Kate and the six children – aged one to sixteen years old – followed him, sailing aboard the Gothenburg. [1] The family lived on the West Coast for six years before moving to Wellington.

A career woman

In Wellington, Sara attended Thorndon school and later became a teacher there. In an article reporting on her retirement from teaching in 1893, Sara spoke ‘of the many happy days she had spent at the school’ and it was clear she would be missed. [2] Sara then became one of the few women to move into the public service, becoming short-hand writer and typist for Mr F Hyde, Private Secretary to the Postmaster-General. [3]

She later moved to the Public Trustee Office, where she was obviously very useful; in 1897, she was sent to assist the Auckland office. While the original note from the Public Trustee to the Auckland agent said, ‘she was to stay as long as necessary’, [4] three weeks later he wrote again, wishing to know when Sara would return. [5]

On 4 September 1897, an ‘unofficial’ letter from the Auckland office asks if Sara can stay in Auckland until at least 14 September, explaining:  

Since Miss Dimant arrived, the weather has been very bad, and she has consequently had no opportunity of seeing many places of interest, in fact, she has been in the office hard at work nearly the whole time.

I can see that Miss Dimant is by no means well, and as the weather now shews signs of improving I could give her opportunities of going out for air and change, which the weather has hithero to a large extent prevented.

The letter then explains the past administration is still being wrapped up and then ends abruptly – it looks as if a page is missing. [6]  Ten days later, Sara sailed from Auckland aboard the Tarawera in the saloon class, and arrived in Wellington on September 18. [7]

In 1901, Sara became the chief typist of the newly-formed Department of Tourist and Health Resorts. Her job could be quite varied; for example, in 1903 she organised for a tuatara to be sent to the Glasgow zoo. As tuatara were covered under ‘The Animals Protection Acts Amendment Act 1900’, special permission was required to export them. To gain permission, Sara wrote to the Colonial Secretary, assuring him that the tuatara would be under the care of the chief officer of a Shaw-Savill Company steamer. [8]

In 1908, she was appointed shorthand writer to Thomas Mackenzie, Minister for Agriculture. [9] 

Home life

Sara’s independence in income can be seen in the little that is known about her home life. From 1894-1895 to 1902, Sara is listed in the street directories at 75 Majoribanks Street, sometimes with relatives such as her sister Teresa, niece Lena and Harry (perhaps her brother Hiram). She was living in Majoribanks Street when she and her niece Lena signed the women’s suffrage petition.

She then moved into a newly-constructed house at 125 Elizabeth Street. The original plan shows a rather unusual house, possibly designed to fit into the wide but shallow section. The drawing room, dining room and three bedrooms occupied a two-storey structure on the left, while on the right was a single-storey extension containing the kitchen, washhouse and bathroom. [10]

Sara lived on Elizabeth Street with her niece Lena. In 1906, Sara asked for leave to stay at home with her niece, ‘who looks after the house’. Having suffered ‘a nasty accident to her eye’, Sara explains ‘she cannot be left alone’. [11]

From March to September 1905, Sara went on an extended holiday to ‘Home’ (the United Kingdom). Unfortunately, there is little that can be known about this trip. She was granted half pay for the trip, indicating her value to the Minister for Agriculture. [12]

Two newspaper snippets refer to the trip:

Miss Dimant, the charming brunette typiste [sic] and shorthand writer of the Tourist Department, who has been on a trip to England, is now within a week or two of Wellington, on the return voyage. Her letters from Home have been most interesting and would read excellently well in print. [13]

The second snippet describes the ‘Hon WR Best, the urbane Melbourne solicitor’ before stating:

He returned to the colonies by the Grayton Grange, on which steamer Miss Sarah Dimant, head typist of the Tourist Department, also returned from a trip to the Old Country. The Hon. Best and Miss Dimant found many subjects of mutual interest to discuss on the long ocean voyage and the two are now very good friends. [14] 

Tantalising though the statement ‘very good friends’ is, nothing more can be found about their relationship.

Another tantalising tidbit is that Sara visited Dr Agnes Bennett when she injured her knee in 1908.  [15] Dr Bennett was possibly the only woman doctor practicing in Wellington at this point; Sara choosing to visit a female doctor must have been a conscious decision, although why she made it, we may never know.

Marriage and retirement

In February 1910, Sara was engaged to widower George Piddock Morris, manager of the Union Steam Ship Company at Picton. [16] The engagement precipitated her resignation from public service and a round of farewell events around Wellington, such the ‘very bright little supper party’ at the ‘Tiffin’ where the Girls Realm Guide expressed their regret at the departure of their secretary. [17] The many different farewell events hint at Sara’s active social life in Wellington.

The wedding was a quiet affair, possibly held at a relative’s house on Grant Road, Thorndon. [18] Sara then moved to George’s house in Picton. [19] Unfortunately, Sara disappears from view after her marriage. A will written in 1911 bequeaths all of her possessions to her two sisters. She is listed at York Street in Picton in the 1911, 1914 and 1919 electoral rolls, although for 1919 she is also listed at 37 Old Farm Road, Kilbirnie, Wellington. Her husband George is also listed at both locations, with the Kilbirnie entry noting that that he ‘retired’. Perhaps upon retirement, they moved back to Wellington to be closer to Sara’s family.

Sara passed away in 1921. [20]

[1] Results from the online database of ‘Outwards passengers lists’, available from: 

[2] ‘Untitled’, New Zealand Times, 19 September 1893, p 2

[3] ‘Clippings’, Press, 4 July 1893, p 4

[4] Public Trustee, letter to The District Agent (Auckland), 5 August 1897, 1897/3055, Archives New Zealand (ANZ).

[5] Public Trustee, letter to The District Agent (Auckland), 28 August 1897, 1897/3055, ANZ.

[6] District Agent (Auckland), letter to the Public Trustee, 4 September 1897, 1897/3055, ANZ.

[7] ‘Shipping Telegrams’, Star, 14 September 1897, p 3; ‘Shipping News’, New Zealand Times, 18 September 1897, p 2.

[8] Sara Dimant, letter to JG Ward (Colonial Secretary), 17 June 1903, IA1 890, ANZ.

[9] Untitled, Evening Post, 8 June 1909, p 7.

[10] ‘125 Elizabeth Street, dwelling’, 1900, 00053:61:3802, Wellington City Archives.

[11] Sara Dimant, letter to Mr Robieson, 28 October 1906, 1903/42, ANZ.

[12] Acting Superintendent, letter to the Hon. Acting Minister (Tourist and Health Resorts), 4 April 1905, 1903/42, ANZ.

[13] ‘All Sorts of People’, New Zealand Free Lance, 12 August 1905, p 3.

[14] ‘All Sorts of People’, New Zealand Free Lance, 7 October 1905, p 3.

[15] Sara Dimant, letter to E Donne, 25 October 1908, 1903/42, ANZ.

[16] ‘Women in Print’, Evening Post, 11 February 1910, p. 9.

[17] ‘Untitled’, Evening Post, 22 April 1910, p 9. 

[18] The Intention to Marry states the wedding will take place at ‘Mr Dimant’s, “Totara”, Grant Road, Wellington’.

[19] ‘Wedding’, Marlborough Express, 30 April 1910, p 5.

[20] 1921/7150, Births, Deaths and Marriages. 

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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