1 Feb 1817


Feminist and businesswoman Mary Taylor is born in Yorkshire, England. In her twenties she emigrated to New Zealand. Her life-long friend and possibly lover, Charlotte Bronte, wrote of Taylor's departure "To me it is something as if a great planet fell out of the sky." According to author Beryl Hughes, Taylor was more uncompromising than most feminists of her time with an "emphasis on the value of work for women and on the right of women to lead their own lives." Taylor spent most of her 14 years in New Zealand living and conducting business in Wellington. Remarkably during her time here, Taylor experienced three major earthquakes: the magnitude 6 Wellington earthquake in 1846, the Marlborough 7.4 earthquake in 1848 and the Wairarapa 8.2 earthquake in 1855.

6 Feb 1840


Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi is signed on this day. With it came New Zealand’s adoption of English law, including the Offences Against the Person Act, which made sodomy punishable by death. Then in 1893 any sexual activity between males in this country became illegal. Penalties included imprisonment, hard labour and flogging. The criminalisation of same-sex love was in stark contrast to earlier times when, according to academic Elizabeth Kerekere, Māori society "accepted diverse sexuality and gender in this country before colonisation." Speaking to the New Zealand Herald, she said "Colonisation changed everything - our expression of sexuality, women having control of their own body, female leadership. We lost all of that, having fluidity, being polyamorous… our sexuality was stolen."

24 Jul 1845


Mary Taylor arrives in New Zealand from England. Taylor was a life-long friend and some say lover of famous English writer Charlotte Bronte. Taylor and Bronte met at school. Bronte later wrote that Taylor had "more energy and power in her nature than any ten men." Taylor was a staunch believer that women should be allowed to work for money in order to guarantee their independence.

2 Apr 1854


Photographer Robert Gant is born in the United Kingdom. At the age of 21 he immigrated to New Zealand. Gant had a notable career as a female impersonator, taking the stage name Cecil Riverton. In 1881 the Evening Post declared Cecil as achieving "a pronounced success in the part of Little Buttercup" in a production of HMS Pinafore. Nowadays Gant is probably more known for his homoerotic photography, produced in Wairarapa and Wellington from the late eighteen hundreds. His visual interests included young men, sailors, shoes, theatrical scenes and execution scenarios (beheadings) - which were popular at the time.

26 Sep 1860


Photographer Henry Winkelmann is born in the United Kingdom. At the age of eighteen he immigrated to New Zealand. He began his photographic career in 1892, focussing on maritime scenes. In 1997 Auckland Museum controversially refused to give permission for one of his images to be on the cover of Best Mates, an anthology of gay writing edited by Peter Wells and Rex Pilgrim. The image depicted Winkelmann in what was described as "a full passionate lingering kiss" with Charles Horton. Wells called it an act censorship and the cover image was published regardless.

12 Sep 1861


Artist and teacher Dorothy Richmond is born in Auckland. During her career, Richmond focused on botanical studies, still life and landscapes. Art historian Janet Paul described her work as having a "unique poetic quality" Richmond never married but had close relationships with several women, including fellow painter Frances Hodgkins. The pair met while in Europe in 1901. They travelled, worked, and at various times, lived together. Hodgkins wrote to a friend that Richmond was "the dearest woman, with the most beautiful face and expression I think I have ever seen." In 1903 the couple returned to New Zealand and for a time they ran a studio together in a building owned by Alexander Turnbull.

20 May 1863


Reverend Henry Turton of Nelson stands trial at the Supreme Court on a charge of sodomy. One of Turton's servants, Isaac Nash, told the court how he had been summoned to Turton's bedroom to bring alcohol. According to Nash, Turton asked him to get into bed and then raped him. Nash told the court that he had later been intimidated by Turton, "[he] told me he had lots of money, and would see it out." Turton had been arrested earlier in May trying to flee to Australia. The judge's summing up was reported by the Wellington Independent newspaper "If the jury believed any tittle of the evidence they would, in all probability, regard [Nash] as an accomplice... It was always unsafe to place confidence in the unsubstantiated evidence of an accomplice." The jury, without even retiring, returned a not guilty verdict.

1 Sep 1863


Explorer and writer Samuel Butler writes of his blossoming relationship with Charles Paine Pauli whom he met in Christchurch. Butler recounted that a barman in California had labelled Pauli as "the handsomest man God ever sent into San Francisco." After an encounter at the Carlton Hotel, Butler wrote that he "was suddenly aware that I had become intimate with a personality quite different to that of anyone whom I had ever known." Butler would go on to financially support Pauli for the next three decades. Author Roger Robinson described Pauli as a "parasitic lawyer" while writer Hugh Young was more charitable. He noted that the relationship seemed to have been like that of Oscar Wilde and Bosie, a "handsome younger man with an older devotee: minimum sex and maximum support."

17 Jul 1867


Hon. John Richardson introduces the Offences Against the Person Bill in Parliament. Under the heading of Unnatural Offences, a person convicted of the "abominable crime of buggery" (e.g. sodomy) could be imprisoned for life. This related to the act being committed with a person or an animal. Attempted buggery, or any "indecent assault" on a male could see a person imprisoned with hard labour.

10 Jun 1868


"Harry" Holland is born in Australia. A printer by trade, Holland went on to lead the New Zealand Labour Party from 1919-1933. After his death, artist Richard Gross was commissioned to sculpt a public monument that would commemorate Holland's work for humanity. Gross created a striking nude male figure, which has been described in a variety of ways - from representing "emancipated youth looking upwards to higher things" to "an extremely buff, naked dude gazing out over his beloved Wellington." A local rainbow walking tour in the 1990s described the work as the capital's most homoerotic piece of outdoor art.

14 Sep 1868


Alexander Turnbull is born in Wellington. Turnbull was an avid collector - amassing over 55,000 books, manuscripts, photographs, paintings and sketches during his life. In 1915 Turnbull House (just opposite the Beehive) was built as his residence and as a place to store his impressive collection. In 1918 Turnbull died following complications from sinus surgery. He never married and bequeathed his collection to the nation, cared for now by the Alexander Turnbull Library.

6 Oct 1874


Poet Ursula Bethell is born in England. Her parents had earlier lived in New Zealand and within a few years the family returned and eventually settled in Rangiora, Canterbury. From her teenage years, Bethell regularly travelled and lived in Europe and the United Kingdom. It was in London that Bethell met her long-time companion Effie Pollen. The pair would later move back to New Zealand and live together in Canterbury where Bethell would write much of her poetry. In 2016, a newspaper article described their relationship as "deeply loving but platonic." In contrast, academic and poet Janet Charman wrote almost twenty years earlier "It was because of the misogyny and homophobia of her era that Bethell had reason to fear invasion of her privacy. It would have been catastrophic to have a lesbian attachment anywhere publicly admitted."

30 Apr 1886


Australian-born Amy Bock receives her first of many convictions in New Zealand. An early newspaper report described Bock as having a "perfect mania for what she called 'shopping' which consisted of ordering goods she did not require and could not pay for." Bock's crimes and personality have long held a fascination for many. Academic Jenny Coleman wrote in 2010 "Amy herself pleaded an inherited mental instability; the authorities at the time agreed she was a habitual criminal. Mad, bad, or lesbian? Or was she simply unconventional in her gender and sexuality?" Writer Johanna Mary noted Bock "played with people's expectations and then confounded them... Although most reports of Amy Bock are written by men, we can guess that for many women of the era, the power and freedom Bock had gained by male disguise had great appeal."

14 Oct 1888


Writer Katherine Mansfield is born in Wellington. Mansfield had well documented relationships with both men and women - one being Edith Kathleen Bendall. For a time, Mansfield wrote letters nightly in violet ink to Bendall inviting her to stay alone with her at the family bach in Days Bay. She wrote in her personal journal "Last night I spent in her arms - and tonight I hate her - which being interpreted, means that I adore her; that I cannot lie in my bed and not feel the magic of her body." On Mansfield's birthday in 1922, and only a few months before her death from tuberculosis, she famously wrote "Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth."

1 Jan 1890


During the 1890s, photographer Robert Gant is active in rural New Zealand. His visual interests include young men, sailors, shoes, theatrical scenes and execution scenarios (beheadings) - which were popular at the time.

19 Sep 1893


The Electoral Act 1893 is passed giving all women in New Zealand the right to vote. The world-leading legislation came after years of suffrage campaigning from activists such as Kate Sheppard who had led multiple petitions calling for change. The important date is often marked with celebrations, commemorations and protests. In 1971 activist Ngahuia Te Awekotuku and others from the women’s liberation movement staged a mock funeral procession in Albert Park, Auckland. The Suffrage Day of Mourning event highlighted the lack of progress for women since the 1893 Act. The now defunct Auckland Star newspaper trivialised the protest, labelling participants as "attractive young things from women’s lib."

6 Oct 1893


The laws around homosexual activity become more explicit with the Crimes Against Morality provisions in the newly enacted Criminal Code Act. Any sexual activity between males was outlawed. Even if the act was consensual, it was still classified as indecent assault. Penalties included life imprisonment, flogging, whipping and hard labour. Flogging involved getting struck with a cat o' nine tails which was made up of multiple pieces of chord. It was designed to lacerate the skin and cause intense pain.

22 Jan 1896


Poet Walter D'Arcy Cresswell is born in Christchurch. After serving in WW1 he returned to New Zealand, turning to poetry as a vocation. Nowadays he is probably better known for his entrapment of the Mayor of Whanganui Charles Mackay. On 10 May 1920 Cresswell was introduced to the mayor. Five days later Mackay shot him in the chest. It would later be revealed that Cresswell (who had homosexual relationships himself) had plotted to lead the mayor on "to make sure of his dirty intentions." He then threatened to expose the mayor's homosexuality if he didn't resign. The incident resulted in Mackay being sentenced to fifteen years hard labour for attempted murder. He was released after six years on the condition that he immediately leave the country.

2 Dec 1897


Social reformer and activist Rewi Alley is born in Canterbury. Much of his life was spent in China, living there from 1927 until his death in December 1987. Academic Roderic Alley believes Alley's most significant legacy to China was "his faith in the co-operative capacities of the ordinary Chinese." Rewi Alley's views weren't always appreciated back in this country, with Alley saying "successive New Zealand governments have tried hard to discredit me as if I was some sort of communist threat to them or a traitor. Well I am a communist, but I am not a traitor." In 1985 Alley received a much warmer reception from Prime Minister David Lange, who during a ceremony honouring him said, "New Zealand has had many great sons, but you, Sir, are our greatest son."