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Dame Harriette Joanna Vine, 1878 - 1962

Harriette Joanna Vine was born in Dunedin on 6 April 1878 to English immigrants Edward and Sarah Vine. She attended Anderson's Bay School, and later Otago Girl's High School.

At some stage after 1894, Harriette relocated with her family to Whanganui. The Wanganui Herald records her as having passed the "Matriculation and solicitor's general knowledge" University Examinations in 1904.

In June 1913 Harriette was capped with her Bachelor of Laws by the Chancellor of the University of New Zealand, Sir Robert Stout, at the Victoria College capping ceremony in the Concert Chamber of the Wellington Town Hall. She would be conferred with a Master of Laws in 1915 and also completed accountancy qualifications.

After graduating, Harriette returned to Whanganui where she spent her entire career working for the firm Treadwell and Gordon specialising in banking, trust, wills and company work.

Being among the very few females in a male dominated profession she attracted interest in the community on her arrival back to Whanganui but seemed to have a good rapport with her fellow lawyers and was known affectionately round the firm as "Venus" or "Hat".

Harriette was truly devoted to the law. So much so, she slept on a sofa in one room of her home along with six large glass-fronted bookcases which stored her rather substantial law library.

Outside of the law, Harriette's interests included volunteer work as a serving sister and secretary/treasurer with the St John Ambulance Association. In 1930 she became an officer of the Order of St John and was made a Dame of the British Empire in recognition of this work. Harriette also gained her pilot's licence, which was another fairly rare accomplishment for a woman of that time.

Harriette never married nor had children. She continued to work until her death when she was killed after being hit by a train in September 1962 while walking home from work. She was 84 years old.

Harriette's last act was leaving her property in Watkins Street to the Whanganui City Council and today the land is now home to the Harriette Vine Kindergarten.

From Wellington Women Lawyers Association with assistance from Victoria University of Wellington and Treadwell Gordon.

Last updated on the 17th August 2016