Given names: 
Selina Julia
Given address: 
Jervois St, Linden
Sheet No: 98

Biography contributed by Helen Edwards

Selina Hancock was born at Horrabridge, South Devon, and baptized on 24 June 1827.  She was the daughter of James Hancock, wheelwright, and Mary Selina Hancock (née Powling), who married in Plymouth in 1826.  Her mother died in 1828.  Selina Hancock’s will contains bequests to girls’ orphanages, suggesting that her memories of a motherless childhood remained strong.  She was living with her Hancock grandparents in the 1841 and 1851 censuses and was the matron and teacher at an Industrial Training School in Edinburgh in 1861.  She also worked in a London mission.

Described as a ‘matron’, Selina Hancock was an assisted passenger on the Zealandia, which landed at Port Chalmers in January 1873.  In March she advertised that she was opening a ‘School for Young Ladies’ in Dunedin’s Octagon, citing testimonials from England and Scotland.  She was the first purchaser in the new Roslyn subdivision of Broughton, buying 3 allotments at about £15 each in February 1875.  She bought four more in February 1876 and in June that year advertised a new girls’ school at her Broughton home.  Other advertisements suggest she had two cottages from which she drew a small income.  She lived in Jervois Street (now Pennant Street) until 1900, and sold all her Broughton property that May.  In January 1904, when she wrote her will, her address was 28 Arthur Street.  Directories described her as a journalist but in electoral rolls she preferred to call herself a ‘literateur’. 

Hancock was a woman of strong convictions, and passionate about causes such as temperance and women’s suffrage.  She was a member of the Executive Council of the Women’s Franchise League.  On her own, she was responsible for collecting four complete sheets of the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition (Sheets 94, 98, 114 and 125), contributing 240 names from Roslyn and elsewhere to the national total.  Each of these sheets was annotated: ‘Collected and witnessed by S. J. Hancock’.  She gathered more than half of the 300 Roslyn signatures, signing her own name on Sheet 98.  She also collected about 400 signatures for the 1891 franchise petition, claiming that she could have achieved twice that amount, had more forms been issued.  ‘Many have stopped me in the street to ask where they could sign.  Also, I believe I could have got as many male as female signatures, as they said it was only an act of justice.’

Hancock’s outspokenness was a source of conflict.  She was an avid collector of signatures to support her views, and caused a stir in April 1896, after collecting 40 signatures from Roslyn Women’s Franchise League members to protest the League’s stance on Bible in Schools.  A public battle of words ensued between her and the president, Marion Hatton, Hatton declaring that the signatures were gathered by ‘disingenuous misrepresentation’.  The League’s executive censured Hancock’s conduct and agreed that her resignation be accepted.  Hancock’s position was that the League had grown out of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, whose policy included Bible in schools.  One of Hancock’s supporters, in a letter to the Otago Daily Times, wrote that ‘Miss Hancock has given many years of unselfish, self-denying work to Roslyn.  She has gone shabbily dressed and, perhaps (who knows?) scantily fed instead of caring for herself and her own comfort.’

Selina Hancock returned to London on TSS Rimutaka in 1904, and died at 17 Belgrave Street, London, on 18 July 1906, aged 80.  Her 1904 will is a most revealing document.  As well as bequests to girls’ orphanages in Bristol and Ilford, she left money to temperance organisations in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.  She appointed the Rev. Robert Rose Mackay Sutherland, Minister of the Kaikorai Presbyterian Church, and the Reverend Rutherford Waddell as her literary executors.  Hancock had published moral and religious tales in London in the 1860s, and other items, on subjects such as Dunedin’s drains, were published in Dunedin in the 1880s.  Local newspapers also published her stories and poems.  Her literary executors were tasked with forming a management committee for the publication of her literary works in Great Britain, with profits going to ‘an orphanage, or home for destitute little girls’.  The works were to be published without editing, preface or apology, exactly as they stood, with not a word altered.  As far as I can tell, none were ever published.

Sources (researched by Alan and Helen Edwards)
Edwards, Helen. Suffragists and stone cottages.  High Flyer, v. 10, issues 1 and 2, 2018
Family Search
Otago Land Deeds. Dunedin Office of Archives New Zealand
Papers Past
Stone’s and Wises directories


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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