MELVILLE, Eliza Ellen
Solicitor and city councillor.
A new biography of Melville, Eliza Ellen appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Ellen Melville was born on 13 May 1882 at Tokatoka, Northern Wairoa, and was the daughter of Alexander Melville, a Scottish settler, and of Eliza, née Fogarty. She received her primary education at Tokatoka and afterwards went to Auckland Girls' Grammar School and to Auckland University College, where she studied law. In 1906 she was the second woman in New Zealand to qualify as a solicitor of the Supreme Court and, three years later, she became the first woman to practise law independently.
In 1913 she was elected to the Auckland City Council, thus becoming the first woman councillor in New Zealand. She was re-elected at every election until illness compelled her to retire after 33 years of consecutive service. During this period she was at various times chairman or member of many of the council's committees, and during both World Wars was active in patriotic work. She was also interested in work connected with women and when, owing to her efforts, an Auckland branch of the National Council of Women was formed in 1918 she was elected its first president.
As a member of the Auckland Centennial Council Miss Melville suggested that a hall should be built for the use of women's societies, and also that there should be a suitable memorial to the pioneer women of the province. Owing to the war these projects were set aside, but after her death, which occurred in Auckland on 27 July 1946, it was decided to build a hall and to make it a memorial both to the pioneer women and to Ellen Melville. With financial assistance from the women's organisations of Auckland, the city council built in Freyberg Place “The Pioneer Women's and Ellen Melville Memorial Hall”, which was opened on 5 September 1962.
Ellen Melville was a woman of strong and perhaps conservative opinions, but will always be remembered as one of those who paved the way for women both in the legal profession and in civic affairs.
by Enid Annie Evans, B.A., A.L.A., Librarian, Auckland Institute and Museum.
- New Zealand Herald, 29 Jul 1946 (Obit)
- New Zealand Libraries, Sep 1946 (Obit)
- Women's Viewpoint, Aug 1960.