Story: McVicar, Annie

Page 1: Biography

McVicar, Annie

1862–1954

Community worker, local politician

This biography, written by Beryl Hughes, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1996.

Ann McLachlan was born on 4 November 1862 near Kilmartin, Argyllshire, Scotland, the daughter of Lilly McNair and her husband, Alexander McLachlan, a labourer. After attending a state school in Kilmartin, Annie trained as a nurse in Glasgow. There on 8 February 1888 she married Gordon McDonald, a clerk. The couple arrived in New Zealand about 1901. Gordon died on 30 August 1906 at the Auckland Mental Hospital and on 9 October that year, in Wellington, Annie married Alexander McVicar, a widower with three children. An engineer who had earlier been at sea, Alexander taught mechanics at Wellington Technical College.

From 1906 onwards Annie McVicar was actively engaged in social and educational work in Wellington. As an early member and vice president of the New Zealand Society for the Protection of Women and Children, she was involved in establishing the local branch of the Plunket Society in 1908. She was the first secretary of the branch in 1908–9 and served again in 1913, and was a vice president for a number of years in the 1920s and 1930s. When the first Plunket nurse, Joanna MacKinnon, promoted the society's work in Wellington, Annie McVicar accompanied her on her visits to mothers; occasionally Annie carried out this work on her own. She served on the Worser Bay School committee, chaired the ladies' advisory committee of the Technical College from 1923 to 1949, and was a parents' representative on the college's board of governors from 1927 to 1939.

Annie McVicar was also interested in politics. In 1913 she was a vice president of a local women's branch of the New Zealand Political Reform League. She became a Miramar borough councillor in 1919 and in February 1921 was nominated to represent the borough on the Wellington City Council. In April that year, after Miramar had amalgamated with Wellington, she became the first woman to be elected to the Wellington City Council. An Evening Post editorial proclaimed that 'Never before has Wellington had a lady City Councillor, and the innovation is full of promise.' Annie McVicar held the seat in 1923 but was defeated in 1925. She was a member of the Wellington Hospital and Charitable Aid Board (later the Wellington Hospital Board) from 1915 until she retired in 1938. In local government, as in her other activities, McVicar was energetic and pragmatic: her particular interests were education and health, especially that of women and children.

As a trustee of Dr Edith Huntley's estate from 1919, McVicar was involved in distributing funds to improve conditions in maternity homes. The Alexandra Maternity Hospital at Newtown was established in 1927 with money from these funds, and McVicar was on the executive of the Wellington Ladies' Christian Association, which ran the hospital and adjacent home for friendless women. For many years she worked as an associate to the magistrate for the children's court and as a Visitor at Porirua Mental Hospital. While on a visit to relatives in Scotland in 1929, McVicar took the opportunity to visit hospitals in the United Kingdom and on the Continent to examine their work in child welfare. She was a delegate to the International Alliance of Women for Suffrage and Equal Citizenship in Berlin in the same year.

Recognition of Annie McVicar's long years of hard work came in various ways. She was awarded the bronze medal of the Alliance française in 1916, appointed one of the first women justices of the peace in 1926, and was made an MBE in 1938. Alexander McVicar died in December 1922. Annie was still in lively good health at the celebration of her 90th birthday in 1952. She died on 26 February 1954 in Wellington. Both her marriages seem to have been childless.

How to cite this page:

Beryl Hughes. 'McVicar, Annie', Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3m32/mcvicar-annie (accessed 26 June 2019)