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Lucy Mee (1851-1925)

Matron of the Otago Benevolent Institute

Lucy & Edward MeeLucy 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)

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