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(Charlotte) Rachel Grimmett (1835-1921)

An evangelical Protestant matriarch

(Charlotte) Rachel GrimmettRachel Grimmett was born into a poor English family. She married Bert Grimmett, a New Zealand-born carpenter and the couple lived in Faringdon Villa, the smart brick double-storey house built by Bert's father in Fitzroy Street, Caversham. The couple joined the Salvation Army in the 1890s. Rachel enthusiastically embraced the Army's Christian brand of feminism. It allowed women to hold positions of authority and rejected the idea that woman's place was only in the home. She often marched alone through the streets to worship at the Barracks in town or to help out at the Army's soup kitchen. She also confronted the demon drink head-on, standing outside the Waterloo Hotel on the street where she lived. Staring down the male drinkers as they came out, she would collect money for the Army's work and sell copies of its newspaper The War Cry. Grimmett was a member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union and an ardent supporter of a woman's right to vote. Her voluntary work for the Salvation Army made her a well known local identity. Meanwhile in her own household Rachel reigned supreme. With her daughter Leah she carried on the whole range of domestic duties involved in a substantial family home. She also managed the family finances, receiving payments, paying the bills and doing the banking. Her support played a crucial role in the success of Bert's contracting business. Decades later her grandchildren remembered her with awe.

(Photograph, Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

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