Ellen Melville

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Ellen Melville
Ellen Melville.JPG
Auckland City Councillor
In office
Personal details
Born Eliza Ellen Melville
(1882-05-13)13 May 1882
Tokatoka, Northland
Died 27 July 1946(1946-07-27) (aged 64)
Remuera, Auckland
Nationality New Zealand
Political party Reform (1919–1922)
Profession Lawyer

Eliza Ellen Melville (13 May 1882 – 27 July 1946) was a New Zealand feminist and politician.

Early life

Melville was born in Tokatoka, on the Wairoa River south of Dargaville. Her father was a farmer and boatbuilder, while her mother was a former teacher. After receiving a basic education from her mother and in Tokatoka, she won a scholarship to study at what is now Auckland Girls' Grammar School (then part of Auckland Grammar School). She began to study to become a lawyer, then an unusual choice for women — when she was admitted to the bar in 1906, she was only the second woman in New Zealand to reach this stage (the first being Ethel Benjamin). Melville established her own legal practice, and practised on her own account for 37 years.

Political career

Melville was highly active in promoting women's causes, and in encouraging full participation by women in public life. Much of her activity centred on women's associations and committees, and she held a number of senior positions in such organisations. She was a strong advocate of women seeking political office. In 1913 she became the first woman to be elected to a municipal authority in New Zealand, gaining a seat on the Auckland City Council which she held for 33 consecutive years to 1946. Politically, Melville tended to be conservative in issues not relating to women's rights.[1]

Melville was active in the campaign which led to the Women's Parliamentary Rights Act, allowing women to stand for Parliament (women had already been able to vote for some time). In the 1919 general election, Melville was a candidate for the Reform Party in the electorate of Grey Lynn, where she placed second. In the 1922 general election, however, she was not selected as a candidate, allegedly being blocked by political organiser Albert Davy. Melville believed that she had been blocked due to the Reform Party not wanting a woman as a candidate, and she stood as an independent candidate in Roskill. In a 1926 by-election, she stood as an independent in Eden, splitting the Reform Party's vote and helping Rex Mason, the Labour Party candidate, to win the seat. She subsequently stood in the 1928 general election, the 1931 general election, a 1941 by-election, and the 1943 election, generally performing well but never winning.[1] She was one of six candidates who stood for selection for the Auckland East electorate by the National Party for the 1938 election,[2] but Harry Merritt was chosen instead.[3]

In 1935, Melville was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal.[4]

Melville died on 27 July 1946 in Remuera. She never married, and had no children. Melville Park is named after her.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Coney, Sandra. "Melville, Eliza Ellen". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Gustafson, Barry (1986). The First 50 Years : A History of the New Zealand National Party. Auckland: Reed Methuen. pp. 26,378. ISBN 0-474-00177-6. 
  3. ^ "Good Reception". Auckland Star. LXIX (233). 3 October 1938. p. 4. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  4. ^ "Official jubilee medals". Evening Post. CXIX (105). 6 May 1935. p. 4. Retrieved 24 June 2018. 
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