Wellington Province


NEILL, Mrs Grace

Page 170-171

Mrs Grace Neill

Mrs. Grace Neill, Assistant Inspector of Hospitals, Asylums, and Charitable Aid for the Colony, was born in Edinburgh, and is the daughter of an Argyleshire landed proprietor. From her early days she took an interest in the well-being of the labouring classes, having had the opportunity of listening to the addresses of the celebrated Joseph Arch. Before leaving England for the colonies, Mrs. Neill gained considerable experience in hospital work. She had the management of a large institution in Manchester, and in London she also engaged in the same work. In both these large cities she was engaged in the consideration of social and sanitary questions, and in the winter in 1885-6 she worked among the poor at Battersea. After this Mrs. Neill decided to visit Australia, and spent several years in Queensland, where she engaged in journalistic pusuits, on the staff of the Brisbane Daily Telegraph, and other papers for some time. Her ability soon attracted the notice of the Government, who appointed her a member of the Royal Commission set up in 1891 to enquire into the conditions of labour in shops and factories. The report presented to the Queensland Legislature shows what a large share she took in its investigations and deliberations. Subsequently Mrs. Neill was retained to enquire into the distribution of charitable aid, and the conditions of the women and children of the necessitous unemployed. While resident in Brisbane the subject of this notice was elected to a seat on the Committee of the School of Arts and Technical College. In 1893 she came to Wellington, bearing high credentials from members of Australian Ministries. The Government was about to appoint a woman to the position of Inspector of Factories, and Mrs. Neill entered the Civil Service in that capacity soon after her arrival. Her previous journalistic experience, together with her knowledge of English, French and German labour literature, and her ability as an accomplished writer, fitted her to aid Mr. Tregear in the editorship of the departmental Journal of Labour. In March, 1894, Mrs. Neill was gazetted Inspector of Factories, and thus became the first woman inspector in New Zealand. About six months later she was appointed an official visitor to the Mount View and Porirua Lunatic Asylums. Mrs. Neill was appointed in May, 1895, Assistant Inspector of Hospitals, Asylums and Charitable Aid: she is the first woman to occupy such a position in the British Dominions. Her appointment has been fully justified, and there is little doubt that the example will be copied in this respect as it has already been in the matter of the Female Franchise.

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