Headstone, Nurse Isabella Maude Manning (1870-1918). O’Neills Point Cemetery, Bayswater, Auckland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2020
Anabel at The Glasgow Gallivanter often writes about the women who have helped shaped history in her part of the world; sometimes telling their stories through the physical memorials that exist to them.
A couple of years ago, Anabel’s post Hidden Histories inspired me to search Auckland for public art that commemorates women (Suffrage and service, celebrating women in Auckland’s public art). More recently, her visits to the Glasgow Necropolis and Cathcart Cemetery reminded me how much I enjoy wandering around cemeteries reading the headstones – and how easily I fall down the rabbit hole of researching the lives those inscriptions only hint at.
Which brings me to Isabella Maude Manning (1870-1918).
I first read about Maude (the name she seems to have gone by) Manning about a year ago, on an information board at O’Neill’s Point Cemetery in Bayswater, Auckland. The board commemorates twenty one victims of the 1918 influenza pandemic who died in the Fort Takapuna army camp nearby at Narrow Neck.
Twenty are buried at O’Neill’s Point; nineteen soldiers and Nurse Manning.
It was easy to find the soldiers’ graves, as almost all are official Commonwealth War Graves, with well-tended and easily identifiable headstones. But despite quite a lot of trudging up and down (it’s a hilly cemetery), I couldn’t find Maude Manning.
Some of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones, for servicemen who died in the influenza epidemic. O’Neills Point Cemetery, Bayswater, Auckland, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2020
Fortunately, the Auckland Council website has an online register of burials.
Unfortunately, while I found the plot reference, I couldn’t find a map to tell me where that particular plot was located, and the graves themselves had no numbers attached.
Eventually I found it by searching the names on headstones I could see, and using their plot numbers as a guide.
It seemed from her rather neglected — and definitely not CWGC — headstone, that Nurse Manning wasn’t, as I’d assumed, a military nurse.
That piqued my interest, and sent me off researching her life.
Although I found Nurse Manning’s name on the “Roll of Honour” of New Zealand Army Nursing Service (NZANS) members who died in the 1918 pandemic, an article I found about her life makes it clear that she had spent her career as an Anglican Mission nurse, working specifically with Maori communities.
Maude Manning was born in Christchurch in 1870; the fifth of 10 children born to Samuel Manning and Ellen Piper (m. Christchurch 1861).
The Manning family was one of Christchurch’s most affluent. Samuel Manning had arrived in New Zealand as a sixteen year old in 1856. Both he and his father were brewers by trade, and after working in his father’s business for a few years, he established his own brewery. During the course of his life, he held directorships of a number of companies and served as the Mayor of Christchurch between 1885-1890.
It’s not clear exactly when Maude became a nurse. I found a newspaper article from June 1891 which reports that had she sat and passed the St Johns Ambulance First Aid exam, but the first record I can find for her that clearly shows her in a nursing role is in 1909, when she joined the Anglican Mission House in Paeroa, as a nurse/midwife.
This is supported by a memorial article in an Anglican newsletter (October 2018, vol. 8; issue 9) which says that she trained at Christchurch hospital before joining the Mission as a nurse/midwife to local Maori, where she learned Te Reo Maori (the Maori language). The article goes on to say that in 1910 she transferred to another mission house at Kaitaia in the Far North, again working with Maori communities. The following year, during an outbreak of typhoid in nearby Ahipara, she volunteered to nurse fever patients, until she too contracted typhoid and was eventually sent home to Christchurch to recuperate.
By 1914, the electoral shows that she had returned to the Mission House in Paeroa, where she continued to nurse until the 1918 when she volunteered to move to Auckland and nurse influenza patients.
This decision was in response to a nationwide call by the government for nurses to care for the many returned servicemen who had contracted influenza. Military camps in New Zealand (and probably worldwide) recorded a very high incidence of influenza infections. This is hardly surprising given the communal living arrangements, and the fact that most of the men living there had very recently returned from war.
Fort Takapuna had been a military base since the late 1880s. In 1915 it began housing a training camp – known as the Narrow Neck camp — specifically for the Maori Contingents of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. Nurse Manning’s experience working amongst Maori, and her ability to speak the language, would have made her invaluable.
About the Maori Contingent
The formation of a separate Maori Contingent (which also included Pacific Islanders) in New Zealand’s military was an initiative of Maori leaders at the time, who:
… hoped that military service would increase both the status of Māori, that Māori service (made more visible by separate units and Māori leadership) would result in their recognition as full and equal citizens of New Zealand, and that they would be treated as such. In short, Māori military service would serve to affirm both the rights of citizenship, reminding both the Crown and Pākehā that Māori were equal citizens as guaranteed under Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi, and to demonstrate that Māori could live up to the duties and the ‘price’ of that citizenship.
In October 1918, the camp was home to around 400 servicemen – mostly Maori and Pacific Island – recently returned from Europe. Around 200 had already contracted the disease.
Within three weeks of arriving at Narrow Neck, Maude Manning had also contracted influenza and died.
The Influenza Epidemic
Worldwide, the 1918 pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people. In New Zealand, the number was around 9000, around 2,500 of them Maori.
The actual number may seem very low, but it has to be remembered that we are a small group of islands separated from the rest of the world by vast oceans, and at the time, the country’s total population was barely more than one million. One of the more sobering facts I found was that “half as many New Zealanders lost their lives in little more than two months than during the entire First World War.” NZ History.
Another is that the death rate for Maori in the epidemic was 49 per 1000 people, compared to about 6 per 1000 residents for Europeans. Amongst the military and medical staff the rate was over 20 percent, and included the country’s first woman GP.
Dr Margaret Cruikshank graduated from Otago University School of Medicine in 1897 and spent her career in the South Island town of Waimate. She died 10 days after Maude Manning, on November 28, 1918, aged only 45.
As well as the headstone in O’Neill’s Point, Nurse Manning is commemorated on her family’s headstone in Sydenham Cemetery, Christchurch, in the Nurses’ Memorial Chapel also in Christchurch, and on a plaque dedicated in her honour in St Paul’s Church, Paeroa.