Story: Suicide

Ingeborg Stuckenberg's gravestone, Waikaraka cemetery, Onehunga

Ingeborg Stuckenberg's gravestone, Waikaraka cemetery, Onehunga

The story of Ingeborg Stuckenberg supports the view that some people such as new immigrants took their own lives because they lacked strong social networks. Stuckenberg was a talented artist, musician and writer who was admired as 'the literary muse' of Denmark.

After leaving her husband she decided to migrate with her new lover to New Zealand believing it was 'this fairytale land with churches and houses, blue mountains and green forests ... "the promised land"'. But she found the wages low, she missed the civilised world of Denmark and her two young sons whom she had left behind, and before long she was writing: 'But all who think of New Zealand as the Promised Land should see the madhouses and read the death lists in the newspapers over here. It is covered up, as far as possible, and the suicides are all considered to have been mentally deranged; but many are the letters left by those who took their own lives, showing that it was not madness – but sorrow and disappointment, grief and misery which drove them to it.' 

In 1904, 15 months after her arrival, Stuckenberg shot herself. The coroner's jury returned the verdict that 'the deceased killed herself while mentally deranged.' (John Kousgard Sorenson, ‘Ingeborg Stuckenberg in New Zealand.’ In Danish emigration to New Zealand, edited by Henning Bender and Birgit Larsen. Aalborg: Danes Worldwide Archives, 1990, pp. 49–51.)

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How to cite this page:

Jock Phillips, 'Suicide - Social factors and suicide', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/26429/ingeborg-stuckenbergs-gravestone-waikaraka-cemetery-onehunga (accessed 29 October 2021)

Story by Jock Phillips, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 16 Jul 2019 with assistance from Sunny Collings and Rosemary Du Plessis