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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.




Feminist and social worker.

A new biography of Wells, Ada appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Ada Wells was born at Henley-on-Thames, Worcester, England, in 1863, and was the daughter of a coachbuilder, William Henry Pike, and Marie, née Welsh, the family emigrating to Canterbury in 1873. Ada was educated at the Avonside Girls' School and, having won a university scholarship, graduated B.A. from Canterbury University College. Before her marriage to Henry Wells in 1884 she taught at the Christchurch Girls' High School. With Professor Bickerton, Mrs Wells founded the Canterbury Women's Institute in 1892, an early feminist organisation, and was its president for many years. She campaigned actively for the women's suffrage movement, heading a Christchurch committee formed for this purpose. In 1896 Ada Wells became the first secretary of the National Council of Women and was closely associated with the radical platform of the group in its early years. With the aid of Sister Frances Torlesse and Mrs T. E. Taylor she aroused public interest in the formation of the Children's Aid Society and the sponsoring of orphanages by religious societies. Ada Wells was one of the first two women members of the Canterbury Hospital Board, the second woman to sit on the Charitable Aid Board, and, in 1917, she became the first woman elected to the Christchurch City Council. As a member of the National Peace Council she resisted conscription in the First World War. She died on 22 March 1933 at St. Albans, Christchurch, leaving one son and three daughters. Ada Wells campaigned for specifically feminist reforms and her service in administrative fields proved effectively that women could undertake public responsibility as ably as men. Her public service must be seen not only as valuable for its own sake but also as an attempt, courageous in her day, to prepare the way for the entry of her sex into new fields.

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

Press (Christchurch), 25 Mar 1933 (Obit).


Patricia Ann Grimshaw, M.A., Auckland.