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Speech

Katherine Mansfield House and Garden Anniversary

Issue date: 
Sunday, 14 October 2018
Speaker: 
The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, QSO

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga iwi o te motu e huihui nei,

tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa.

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, warm greetings to you all.

I specifically acknowledge:

His Excellency Scott Brown, Ambassador of the USA;

Nicola Willis, Member of Parliament;

Deputy Mayor of Wellington,Jill Day,

Wellington City Councillor, Nicola Young

President of the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society, Nicola Saker and the other Board members present –

tēnā koutou katoa.

David and I are delighted to join you all today on this very special occasion.

It’s a real privilege to be able to celebrate the birth of one of our greatest writers at the house where she was born.Who doesn’t get a slight thrill from the idea that we could indeed be standing where Katherine Mansfield once stood and walking where she once walked.

That we are able to do so at all is a small miracle.We have not always been kind to our heritage buildings in New Zealand and we’ve lost many treasures over the years.  For many decades, this house was thought to have been one of them.

Its rediscovery and restoration 30 years ago was a boon for Wellington’s heritage.We are lucky that there were so many dedicated people who gave their time, effort and support to saving this House for future generations. 

It’s a monument to Katherine Mansfield and a destination for scholars and heritage lovers alike.

To 21st century eyes, this place seems quite charming.The residents may have been less fond of it.

Katherine Mansfield herself described it in one of her stories as a “horrid, little piggy house” which does seem rather harsh.

Maybe her memories were tainted by how crowded it was.It can’t have been comfortable with her parents, 2 sisters, 2 aunts, a grandmother and a servant all vying for space.  Certainly when the Beauchamp family left, they moved to much grander accommodation.

What the House lacks in space however, it makes up for with insights into Wellington life in the 1880s.

Author Damien Wilkins said that Katherine Mansfield’s prose offers lessons in entering ordinary lives.

The same can be said of her former home.It has its own story to tell of everyday life and how people lived.It’s a fascinating look into Wellington’s past and I’m sure that the planned redevelopment, which we will hear about later, will only enhance the current experience.

Katherine Mansfield was a rebel, a trailblazer and a modernist who achieved a lot in the very short time allotted to her.The way she chose to live her life has much to say about the importance of being true to oneself.

Considering her bohemian ways, she may seem an unlikely successor to the suffragists, but in their levels of commitment and determination, they were sisters under the skin.  Where they strove for political freedom and equal rights, Katherine strove for artistic and personal autonomy.

How much of that was inspired by growing up in a country where women were more equal than anywhere else in the world, we can only guess.

Despite living her adult life in Europe, it was Katherine’s New Zealand childhood that inspired her best stories.  Although she never returned before her early death, the collection of stories and letters she left behind remain an object of pride for all New Zealanders.  

Her stories have been translated into many different languages and are read and discussed all around the world.However they have never been translated into Te Reo … until now.  

I’m delighted to announce formally today the publication of Te Whare Tāre - The Dolls House, translated into Te Reo Maori by Dr Karena Kelly of Victoria University.

What a fine birthday present for the House and for Katherine herself.

I offer my Congratulations to the board, friends, supporters and staff of the Katherine Mansfield House and Garden, on 30 years of achievement.

Kia ora huihui tātou katoa.

Last updated: 
Monday, 15 October 2018

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