Lifetime of community service brought to light

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Portrait of Florence Mary Day, Arthur Lindsay Mitchell, 1930s? Collection of the Southland Museum & Art Gallery Niho o te Taniwha. From the estate of Florence Mary Day, 1987. 89.4

LIKE many of the women represented in the Southland Museum & Art Gallery collection, when we first encountered Florence Mary Day there was little information about her in our records beyond her name.

This absence of information was particularly perplexing in Florence’s case due to the scale of her contribution to the collection, which consists of more than 500 items.

Who is this woman lurking in the historical shadows?

Queen’s Service Medal, 1978. Collection of the Southland Museum & Art Gallery Niho o te Taniwha. From the estate of Florence Mary Day, 1987. 87.229.1

The story begins in Invercargill in 1910, when John James Moore, a labourer, and his wife Ann McFarlane Moore (nee McLennan) welcomed Florence into the world.

Glimpses of her life as a child and young adult are offered by her father’s diaries.

Although John was a practical man of few words, his daily entries indicate Florence grew up in a loving household which fostered community-mindedness and she received the type of education typical for young women at the time, including classes in both drawing and music.

She married twice, first to professional traveller Robert Louis (Lou) Stevenson on March 5, 1941, and then, following Lou’s sudden death in June 1947, to local storeman driver, George Day.

Throughout her life, Florence had a strong and enduring involvement with Southland women’s groups and social organisations, including the Southland Competitions Society (which supports the performing arts), the Southland Museum & Art Gallery Trust Board, the Invercargill branch of the Women’s Division of Federated Farmers, the Southland Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the National Council of Women (to name but a few).

She was secretary for the Southland Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) for several years, and in November 1969 she was awarded a UNESCO travelling fellowship which enabled her to spend eight-and-a-half months travelling through Canada, Britain, Italy, Paris, and the United States studying adult education and education for the elderly.

Her service to the community was recognised in 1978 when she was among the first in the country to receive a Queen’s Service Medal.

The collection of artefacts she gifted to the Southland Museum & Art Gallery is a lasting reminder of both her generous spirit and the valuable role volunteers have played, and continue to play, in making Invercargill a great place to live.

  • Kimberley Stephenson is the Southland Museum & Art Gallery collections manager

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