suffrage_petition
Surname: 
Billens
Given names: 
Sarah
Given address: 
31 Kingsley St
Sheet No: 207
Town/Suburb: 
Sydenham
City/Region: 
Christchurch
Notes: 

Biography contributed by Dr Helen B. Laurenson (née Crabtree).

Sarah Emma Caroline Rudd (née Billens) 1872 - 1903

Sarah (Sadie), the eldest child of Emma and Frederick Billens, was born at Kaiapoi in 1872. Frederick died in 1888 at the age of 44 years leaving nine children in the care of his widow who was living at 31 Kingsley Street, Sydenham at the time the petition was signed. Sadie worked in Ballantynes department store, Christchurch, to help support the family until her marriage to Minchin Rudd on 15 October 1896. The family were active members of the Wesleyan (Methodist) Church.

Although attended by a doctor, Sadie, aged 31, died of ‘puerperal fever and exhaustion’, on 29 August 1903, 16 days after giving birth to her fourth child, Maxwell Billens Rudd. On 6 July 1903, Sadie and Minchin’s third child Verna had died at the age of one year nine months, almost two months before her mother. Mother and daughter are buried in Addington Cemetery, in the same grave as Sadie’s grandparents.

In 1903, 100 women died in childbirth – the greatest number in any of the ten years since 1894. The shocking mortality statistics for the decade, including the deaths of 20,487 children under the age of five years, where over 75% had died before they reached their first birthday, were quoted in gaining support for the Midwives’ Bill 1904, and the setting up of the St Helen’s Hospitals, named after Prime Minister Richard Seddon’s Lancashire birthplace. With the deaths in childbirth of 732 women including Sadie, during that decade, and supported by the work of Grace Neill and others, New Zealand was challenged to reduce its maternal mortality rate. 

Maxwell Rudd died in 1926 at the age of 23. Laurence (Laurie) Frederick Rudd, 1898-1973 and Lyndall Mary Crabtree (née Rudd),1900-1977, were the two other surviving children of Sadie and Minchin’s marriage.

Sarah Billens

Quilt designed and made by Heather Baird for the Suffrage Quilt project.

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

'Sarah Billens', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/suffragist/sarah-billens, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 9-Oct-2019

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