Previously only available in an online text form, one of the most useful and readable books about Wellington’s local history is now fully digitised on Wellington City Recollect.
The Streets of my City broke new ground when it was first published in 1948, presenting Wellington’s past through a tour of its streets and how they had been named. It was a radical departure from previous dry and somewhat pedestrian works of local history such as Alan Mulgan’s The City of the Strait (1939) and Louis Ward’s Early Wellington (1929). It was the culmination of years of work by one of Wellington’s most remarkable women from the first half of the 20th Century, F. L. (Fanny Louise) Irvine-Smith.
She was born in Napier on 10 September 1878 but her father died in an accident when she was only six-months old and the family moved to Wellington after her mother remarried. She attended Wellington Girls’ College from 1892 to 1895, then attended teachers’ college which began her life-long professional involvement in education. Her first teaching position was as a young intern at Fitzherbert Terrace School in Thorndon in 1897 (eventually to become Samuel Marsden Collegiate) when she was aged only 19 and she soon accepted a number of placements around the North Island. As she never married, Irvine-Smith was free of the social norms of the period that expected women to give up their careers upon marriage. She completed her teaching qualifications in New Plymouth in 1898, then returned to Wellington and enrolled at Victoria College (now Victoria University) where she studied part-time while continuing to teach, graduating with a B.A. in 1908. While there she also became the founding editor of the university review magazine, Spike which remained in publication for 60 years. She returned to the institution in 1920 where she completed a M.A in history; a rare achievement for women in this period.
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