Lucy Mee (1851-1925)
Matron of the Otago Benevolent Institute
Mee was the matron of the Otago Benevolent
Institution for nearly 30 years. She was
born Lucy Madams at Goodwood, Palmerston,
in 1851. After schooling at Waikouaiti she
came to Dunedin and began working at the
Dunedin Asylum as a laundress. In 1874 she
married Hugh McDermott and had a daughter.
When her husband drowned in 1881 she began
working at Ashburn Hall, Dunedin's private
mental hospital. Three years later she married
again. Her new husband, Edward John Mee,
was a warder at the Dunedin Hospital.
Edward was appointed manager of the Otago
Benevolent Institution in Caversham in 1886.
Lucy worked with him as matron at the same
time as bringing up their five children.
The 'Benny' looked after the Dunedin's indigent
poor, providing a home to up to 250 paupers,
unmarried mothers and elderly people. It
was a busy place and its domestic management
involved much hard work. Lucy also acted
as a mid-wife to the district and became
well-known for her record of safe deliveries.
A devout Catholic, Lucy was an early member
of the St Vincent De Paul Society in Dunedin.
For many of the poor and abandoned on the
Flat, hers was the human face of the charity
dispensed by the Benevolent Institution.
(Photograph, Otago Settlers Museum Collection)