Page 1: Biography
Salvation Army officer, social worker
This biography, written by Tim Beaglehole, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, vol 2, 1993.
Annie Robertson was born on 23 March 1844 at Bedwell Park near Essendon, Hertfordshire, England, the second daughter of David Robertson and his wife, Ann. Of Scottish parentage, David Robertson studied briefly for the ministry before turning to horticulture and working as a gardener on a number of estates in England. Bedwell Park was the home of Sir Culling Eardley Eardley, a religious philanthropist, friend of Dr David Livingstone and founder of the Evangelical Alliance, which was designed to promote religious freedom throughout the world. It would have been a congenial position for Robertson, whose surviving letters and gardening diary show a thoughtful man, God-fearing and committed to total abstinence but not without wit. Ann Robertson died on 24 August 1846, a few months after the birth of a son; 10 days later the baby died. The following year David married Mary Walker. There were seven children of this marriage, the two youngest being born in Wellington, New Zealand.
The Robertson family arrived in Wellington in May 1857 on the Alma. Three months later David Robertson was appointed sexton at the Wellington public cemetery in Sydney Street, a position he held for 30 years. The growing family lived in a small cottage in the cemetery. David's botanical knowledge brought him into contact with Sir George Grey and, later, Sir William Jervois.
Annie Robertson was married by the Wesleyan minister at Wellington on 25 January 1865 to Henry Rudman, a tanner, described by a grand-daughter as a jack of all trades; they were to have four sons and three daughters. In 1866 Annie's sister, Mary Jane, married William Henry Beaglehole, a brickmaker and lay preacher at the Primitive Methodist chapel in Webb Street; one of their grandsons was J. C. Beaglehole, the historian.
Annie Rudman inherited her father's religious beliefs and social concerns. When the Salvation Army held its first meeting in Wellington on 17 June 1883 she was one of the first converts, and she became the first soldier on the roll of the Army's Wellington corps. A stout, motherly woman, always meticulous about wearing her uniform, she is said to have revelled in the open-air meetings and to have excelled at recruiting others.
Annie Rudman and another woman soldier, Mary Hawker, were given the task of caring for women converts. During the depression of the 1880s they are said to have pioneered the Army's social work by opening their own homes to reformed prostitutes, the women sometimes occupying the empty beds of Mr Rudman and Mr Hawker while they were away on shift work. In addition, the assistance they gave to unmarried expectant mothers led the Army to establish its hospitals for this purpose.
In her last years, still in uniform, Annie was driven to the citadel for Sunday morning services in the side-car of a motorcycle. She died, at 84, on 15 August 1928, at the home of one of her daughters. Henry had died in 1916. Annie Rudman was survived by her seven children, all of whom followed her into the Salvation Army. In 1964 the Salvation Army renamed its young men's hostel (later demolished) in Vivian Street, Rudman House.