Page 1: Biography
Smith, Lucy Masey
Editor, feminist, temperance and welfare worker
This biography, written by Margaret Lovell-Smith, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1993.
Lucy Masey Smith was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, on 1 June 1861. She was the fifth of six children of Eleanor Phoebe Macleod and her husband, James Thomas Smith, a compositor. The family had emigrated from England the previous year. Lucy attended St Albans Wesleyan day school where she won prizes for spelling and reading. Her parents were staunch members of the St Albans Wesleyan Church, and church activities played a major part in their family life. Lucy joined the church's Sunday school, Bible class and choir, often performing as an alto soloist with the choir in the 1880s.
Lucy Smith began teacher training at the Christchurch Normal School, but withdrew in the latter part of 1879 due to ill health. By this time her father had established a printing business and built a printing factory next to the family home in Springfield Road. He began publishing the magazine New Zealand Titbits in 1885; Lucy's mother was the editor.
Eleanor Phoebe Smith was a feminist who joined the New Zealand Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the Canterbury Women's Institute. Lucy Smith also belonged to these organisations and she supported the campaigns for women's rights and suffrage. Her interest in women's issues and her likely experience in the printing and publishing business were happily combined in 1894 when she became editor of the WCTU's page in the Prohibitionist, writing under the pen-name 'Vesta'. The page had hitherto been edited by the suffrage leader Kate Sheppard, who was paying a visit to England. The following year Lucy Smith and other WCTU members established the White Ribbon, a monthly magazine. It was published by the WCTU, and printed by Smith, Anthony, Sellars and Company, the family printing business now managed by Lucy's brother William Sidney Smith. Lucy Smith was appointed associate editor of the White Ribbon and Kate Sheppard, who returned to New Zealand in 1896, was appointed editor.
Smith attended the first meeting of the National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCW) in 1896. Unlike most of the other women activists, she was in paid employment: on her father's death in 1896 she took up office duties and remained working at the family printing business as proofreader until about 1920.
In 1903 Kate Sheppard resigned as editor of the White Ribbon, Mary Jane (Jennie) Smith, the wife of William Sidney Smith, resigned as business manager, and Lucy Smith took over both positions. For five years she produced the magazine, maintaining a similar editorial policy to that adopted by Kate Sheppard. Her associate editor during this period was the writer Jessie Mackay.
At the same time, she continued to serve as a Sunday school teacher and young ladies' Bible class leader at St Albans Wesleyan Church. She attended leaders' meetings and became a congregational steward. After her mother's death in 1913, Lucy and her sister Eleanor continued to live in the family home on Papanui Road. In 1917, after the NCW was revived, Lucy Smith became an associate member of the Christchurch branch, and in 1927 became its secretary. From 1928 to 1929 she edited the NCW's Bulletin magazine.
A combination of poor health, a heavy workload and a retiring disposition meant that Lucy Smith was not a leader in the women's movement; her work was always done quietly, behind the scenes. In 1902 the White Ribbon had commented that 'Much of her work, even on this paper, has been unappreciated because it has been unknown'. Yet a study of her writing shows that she was a strong feminist, progressive thinker, and courageous reformer who cared deeply about social issues and was prepared to espouse unpopular viewpoints.
Lucy Smith followed her brother's family in changing her name to Lovell-Smith in 1926. She never married. She died at her home in St Albans on 3 March 1936.