The City Seamstress - Arabella Manktelow (1871-1963)

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Arabella is one of three elderly women recorded in 1963 remembering voting in the 1893 election.

She was 92 at the time of the interview, but her views on why women were keen to support the Temperance movement are clear and insightful. She says like many women, she voted for Prohibition initially: “Not so much to have liquor prohibited, as to keep it in check, as to get laws for closing hours… They could see what it [alcohol] was doing to a new country. It was ruining it. A few people were getting rich, but the majority were getting poor.”

She comes across in the interview as something of a feisty character, and is cutting in her opinion of Premier Richard Seddon, calling him ‘an old hypocrite’ as he opposed women getting the vote but then congratulated them when the law was passed, saying he “always sided with the winning side.”

Arabella was born in London in 1872 and came to New Zealand with her family, arriving in March 1876 after a harrowing voyage in which their ship was dismasted, becalmed and the crew mutinied. The family settled in Hamilton, but Arabella moved to Auckland around 1890, and worked as a dressmaker. She signed the 1893 suffrage petition while living in Mackelvie Street, Ponsonby.

According to Manktelow family history, her grandmother was French and Arabella was said to have inherited both her skill as a seamstress and her good looks. She is also described as not liking men and never married. 1.

Arabella moved to Mangere to live around 1919, when this was still a largely rural area. She was active in the Women’s Division of the Farmer’s Union and maintained a well-known, old-world garden at her property “The Acre.” She moved back into Auckland city in later life and passed away less than a month after her interview was recorded in October 1963.

1. Manktelow family history, courtesy Bill Manktelow.

Image courtesy of Bill Manktelow

Catalogue Reference 156726

Year 1963


Manktelow, Arabella

Excerpt: 0:03:46

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