Mother Aubert plaque unveiled in Wellington today

5 October 2018

One of the most remarkable women in New Zealand history, Suzanne Aubert, will be honoured in a ceremony at Pukeahu War Memorial today, on the 92nd anniversary of her funeral.

Portrait of Mother Aubert

Mother Aubert, as she was known, was a nun, social worker and herbalist who founded New Zealand’s only indigenous order, the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion, more commonly known as Sisters of Compassion.

As part of Wellington City Council’s recently introduced Heritage Plaques scheme, a plaque to Mother Aubert will be unveiled outside the crèche in the Pukeahu War Memorial in Buckle St at 11am today.

The first Heritage Plaque, honouring radio personality Maud Basham (Aunt Daisy), was unveiled last month and another, in memory of writer Iris Wilkinson (Robin Hyde) is planned for later this month.

The Council’s Heritage Plaque scheme launch coincided with the 125th anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in New Zealand, so it was decided to honour three women initially.

The scheme has been led by Councillor Nicola Young, whose is responsible for the Central City Projects portfolio.

Mother Aubert, who was born in France in 1835, is sometimes referred to as New Zealand’s Mother Teresa. After moving to New Zealand in 1860, she worked tirelessly with those who were struggling in life, including widows, Māori, unmarried elderly men, deserted wives, single mothers, and the physically and intellectually handicapped.

She established a day-care nursery, a revolutionary concept in New Zealand in the early 1900s, and later opened a larger institution for young children, the Home of Compassion in Island Bay.

“Mother Aubert carried out her work without regard to religious or political affiliations, which certainly upset the establishment at times,” Cr Young says. “She was determined, energetic and had great vision."

“By the time she died in 1926 she had become a much-loved national figure and her funeral at St Mary of the Angels may still be the largest held for a woman in New Zealand, with thousands of mourners lining the streets – even standing on rooftops – along the route her hearse took to Karori Cemetery.

“It is no wonder she is well on the road to canonisation.”

The Home of Compassion nuns and Mt Cook Mobilised will attend the unveiling, where all are welcome.