Given names: 
Mary Ann
Given address: 
Grey Street
Sheet No: 21

Biography contributed by Judith Corbelletto-Thompson

Mary Ann Gunson (nee Bryne) was born in Glasgow about 1843. She arrived in New Zealand in 1874 aged 31 and lived the rest of her life in Auckland, residing in Onehunga at the time she signed the Petition. It is not known if she was active in the suffragist movement, but she had good reason to support women’s rights and temperance. 

Soon after arriving in New Zealand, Mary Ann married James Gunson. They had four sons - George (b. 1875), Samuel (b.1877), John (b.1880) and William (b.1886). However, Mary Ann’s married life was marked by domestic violence and poverty. Court records show that James assaulted her on many occasions, with the violence commencing soon after they married.  In August 1876, only about two years after the marriage, James was charged with ‘knocking his wife down and beating her on the head’. This was noted as the seventh such incident. They appear to have separated and reconciled a number of times and between 1876 and 1896 James appeared in court numerous times for failing to provide financial support for her and the children. 

Despite her immensely difficult circumstances, there is a sense that Mary Ann was a strong-willed woman, prepared to testify against her husband in court and stand up for herself and her four children. During one court appearance James offered to pay 30s a week for Mary Ann and two of the children and to take the third child himself. Mary Ann is reported as responding ‘No. You won’t take a child of mine. I would rather suffer’.  

Mary Ann Gunson died on 28 May 1897 aged 54. At the time of her death all four children were alive, her youngest son William only 10 or 11 years old. She is buried in the Catholic part of Waikumete Cemetery, Auckland.  


Birth, Deaths and Marriages Online. Mary Ann Gunson Death Certificate
Birth, Deaths and Marriages Online. Mary Ann Byrne Marriage Certificate
Records. Papers Past, National Library
Birth, Death and Marriages records.
Women’s Suffrage Petition
Ancestry Library



Click on sheet number to see the 1893 petition sheet this signature appeared on. Digital copies of the sheets supplied by Archives New Zealand.

How to cite this page

'Mary Ann Gunson', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 1-Oct-2018

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