Given names: 
Given address: 
Lichfield St
Sheet No: 197
Central Christchurch

Biography contributed by Terry Kennaway.

Mary (nee Goddard) was born on 13 March 1831 in Somerset, England and at the age of 17, married James Lamb of Sherborne, in the neighbouring county of Dorset. The couple emigrated first to Australia then later to Christchurch, New Zealand. They had a large family – five daughters and seven sons. In 1872 James established a funeral business (J. Lamb & Son) in Christchurch. Another son, William later established another funeral business, Lamb & Hayward in partnership with William Hayward and William Boon in 1923. When James died in 1895, he left his share of Lamb & Son to Mary and she ran the business in partnership with her youngest son, Herbert until around the time of her death in 1898. She was said to be a strong and capable woman who was very much in control of the business.

Mary believed very strongly in the rights of women and encouraged her daughters to be independent. She was described by her nephew as, 'A very wise and prudent woman'.

When writing her will, Mary made some very astute conditions pertaining to the running of the funeral business. Two of her daughters were still unmarried and living at their home in Lichfield Street, Christchurch, along with their brother, Herbert. Mary wanted to ensure their future was secure and well provided for, so directed that Herbert, Lucy and Ethel share in the running of the business, and that profits, at the end of each year were to be given; 50% to Herbert and 25% each to Lucy and Ethel.

Mary clearly inspired her daughters to fight for the rights of women and her daughters, Lucy and Georgina and daughter-in-law-to-be, Jane King (who later married Herbert), signed the Women’s Suffrage Petition with her. Mary had come a long way in her life, from dairymaid in a small village in England to successful business woman and advocate for women’s rights in New Zealand. Her influence has carried on through many of her descendants over the years since.

Mary Lamb

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 Lamb', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 7-Mar-2018

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