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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


KELSEY, Lavinia Jane



A new biography of Kelsey, Lavinia Jane appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Lavinia Jane Kelsey was born in North London on 23 February 1856, the daughter of Thomas Kelsey, a prominent Congregational minister. She was educated at a private school in Hampstead. With her brothers Thomas and Arnold, she emigrated to New Zealand in 1877, settling in Dunedin, where Arnold, later a brother-in-law of William Pember Reeves, opened a music shop. Education soon became her lifetime interest. She began a private school for girls and conducted adult education classes for women. Her most important work, however, was in the realm of kindergarten education. In 1889 she was the prime mover in the foundation of the Dunedin Free Kindergarten movement, for which she acted as secretary and gained a knowledge of techniques from overseas contacts. In 1912 she helped to establish the movement on national lines. Lavinia Kelsey took an active interest in other social and cultural work. She shared in the women's suffrage campaign and, in 1892, was appointed to the committee of the Dunedin Franchise League. She died in Dunedin on 16 June 1948.

The New Zealand kindergarten movement which in its early stages was regarded as a philanthropic cause to help the children of the poor, owed much in its beginnings to the enterprise and knowledge of Lavinia Kelsey.

by Patricia Ann Grimshaw, M.A., Auckland.

  • Otago Daily Times, 17 Jun 1948 (Obit). Evening Star (Dunedin), 17 Jun 1948 (Obit).


Patricia Ann Grimshaw, M.A., Auckland.