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Sarah Hananeia (c1845-1927)

Pioneer Lebanese travelling merchandiser (hawker)

Sarah Hananeia was born in Tripoli, Lebanon, and married Antony Hananeia there when she was seventeen. The couple were to have six children. In about 1890 the Hananeias emigrated to Dunedin, Sarah coming ahead with a daughter and son-in-law. Antony had been a plasterer in Lebanon but was unable to work in Dunedin due to ill health. After his death in 1905, and with her children all grown up, Sarah went on the road as a hawker. Carrying her goods in a suitcase, she took the train north and then walked around Waikouaiti, Palmerston and Oamaru selling buttons, needles, socks and stockings, handkerchiefs and embroidered aprons. Customers knew her as 'Mrs Anthony'. Sarah was a tiny woman, always dressed in black. She became a well known sight around Otago, pushing her wares in a large pram as she walked long distances on her sales route. There were two communities of Lebanese in Dunedin. One group, who were Catholics, settled in the inner city around Carroll Street. The second group were Eastern Orthodox in religion and joined the Anglican church in Dunedin. They were concentrated in South Dunedin. Sarah Hananeia was a matriarchal figure among this second group. Along with other Lebanese women she made and sold goods to help erect St Michael's Orthodox Church in Fingall Street in 1911. She died in 1927.

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