Mrs Jane Fleming nee Marshall


Oh the treasures to be found in old newspapers! This one comes from

‘Death of a Pioneer: the passing of an iteresting personality was published in the New Zealand Times, 1st July 1912.  A time when most biographies were about men. 

I was tracing the story of John Stuart Fleming (1842-1904), a pioneer businessman at Westport on the wild, islolated west coast of New Zealand’s south island and later in Wellington. The obituary I found is actually of his widow but she is only named as as “Mrs Fleming” and “the widow of John Stuart Fleming”.  This practice of naming a wife as Mrs [husband’s name] was a lingering legacy of the law of coverture – when a woman and  man were married, she relenquished all her status rights to him and was considered to be under his protection. (for more on the law of coverture see Amazing Women in History)

Further research has revealed Jane (or Janet in some records) was born c.1824 to John & Catherine Marshall (nee Scott) at Lochee near Dundee in Scotland.  Educated in Scotland, Jane married John Stuart Fleming from Strathaven in 1862. The following year, after the birth of their first child, Thomas Reid Fleming her husband emigrated to New Zealand establishing a drapery business at Westport with his brother Thomas McMillan Fleming. It was a further four years before Jane and their son joined him in 1868.

The writer knew her well and reveals many details about her life and character. Jane was a “woman of large heart and wide intellectual sympathies” activley involved in support for struggling farmers on the west coast; actively involved in the women’s suffrage movement of New Zealand – the first country in the world to give women the vote in 1893.  She  “took a prominent part in the movement for the extension of the franchise to women and was a delegate from Wellington to the convention held, in connection therewith, at Christchurch in 1893.” All through her life she was a “close student of social and mental problems”; “keenly interested in the education of women” and “identified herself wholeheartedly some years ago with the Home Reading Union, whose “circles” proved a highly valuable influence at a time when facilities for social intercourse and intellectual fellowship were much more limited than they are now” wrote the author.

Her husband John Stuart Fleming passed in 1904 but Jane leaves three adult sons, Thomas Reid Fleming (1863-1930), John Stuart Fleming (1873-1959) and James Martin Fleming (1875-1954) and four adult daughters, Agnes Stewart Fleming (1868-1938), Elizabeth Marshall Martin Fleming (1874-1945), Mary or May Silvia Easton Fleming (1877-1918) and Jeanie Leonora Beatrice Ruth Fleming (1880- ).