My Simple Life in New Zealand
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My Simple Life in New Zealand by Adela Stwart

Adela Blanche Anderson was born on 1 January 1846 at Clifton, Bristol, England. she married Hugh Stewart, a lieutenant in the Royal Artillery and member of an upper-class northern Ireland family. The couple lived in England, the Mediterranean, the West Indies and Bermuda before emigrating to New Zealand in 1878.

With their seven-year-old son, Mervyn James, the Stewarts arrived at Auckland in August 1878 aboard the Lady Jocelyn. They were among about 40 families from northern Ireland who founded the settlement of Katikati in the Bay of Plenty.

Adela Stewart's diary later became the basis of her book, My simple life in New Zealand , which gives a detailed record of her difficulties and triumphs. she became in time an expert cook, baker and gardener. For a while the Stewarts took the sons of friends as cadets on their farm and Adela taught them how to make butter, bread and beer. Gardening and poultry-keeping were two of her favourite activities, and her management contributed to the success of the farm. She earned money for herself by selling butter, fruit, tomato sauce, honey and flowers. Her prize-winning chrysanthemums went to buyers all over the country.

As the Stewarts grew older, the difficulties of finding help for farm and household work, and for continuing their social life, increased. They sold Athenree in 1906 and returned to England. My simple life in New Zealand was published in London in 1908. It gives a lively and informative account of the process of establishing a new settlement. Its overall tone is one of cheerful stoicism in the face of adversity, and a strong desire to maintain the social lifestyle Adela Stewart had been used to before coming to New Zealand. It shows her to be an enterprising woman, whose devotion to her husband and son was fully repaid. Following the death of Hugh in April 1909 Adela returned to New Zealand on a visit. She died on the night of her arrival at Katikati on 12 February 1910.

This book gives a good insight into the trials and tribulations of the early pioneer women of New Zealand.

Price NZD$15