PAGE, AMY WINIFORD nee BEAMISH
Amy Winiford Beamish was born on 11 September 1886 at Hawera, the youngest of nine children of George Thomas Gillman and Jane Beamish nee Dale. Amy's uncle, Alleyne Beamish was killed at the skirmish at Turuturu Mokai on the 11 July 1868, while fighting alongside his brother John.
Amy was educated at Hawera Main Primary School and in 1899 was the Dux of the school. She also won a scholarship, but was unable to take it up and attend secondary school in Wanganui, because of her widowed mother's financial hardship. Amy strove to make up for her lack of formal education by reading widely, and learning French.
In 1905, Amy joined John Turton's accounting business in Hawera, and in 1910 and 1911 she studied the law subjects bearing on accountancy under Patrick O'Dea, barrister and solicitor. In an era when women generally stayed in the home and seldom entered professions, she drew a tribute from Mr O'Dea that she had a "logical and business-like mind far superior to that of the average male". He also said that Amy was "without doubt the most capable woman I have come in contact with."
In 1915, after 10 years with Mr Turton, Amy left to start her own accounting and secretarial practice, and also became secretary to five co-operative dairy companies - Normanby, Mells (at Mokoia), Ararata, Melrose (at Meremere) and Meremere (at Ohangai). She was also agent for the Phoenix Assurance Co Ltd.
Amy was an organist and choir member of St Mary's Anglican Church with Maude Basham (Aunt Daisy). She was one of the first women in Hawera to get her drivers licence and drove a Model T Ford. A very active woman, Amy frequently climbed Mt Egmont, and before owning her car, would often walk to meetings, at say Manaia.
Farming was an important interest in her life, and many of her clients were farmers. Early in the 1920s she bought her own farm to the south of Hawera, and this stayed in the Page family until just recently. Sometime before her marriage, she and her brother Leonard had an architecturally designed house built at 21 George Street. Unusual features of the time included a putting green and garage. Their mother Jane came to live with them there.
In 1922, Amy married John Pearson Page at St James Anglican Church, Mokoia. Two years later she and her husband went overseas to Britain and the United States. The Hawera Star reported on her departure: "It is quite common knowledge that as secretary of five co-operative dairy companies, Mrs Page has earned an enviable reputation for the highly satisfactory manner in which she has carried out her duties; in fact it is not too much to say that she has been regarded as a model secretary".
One of the dairy company managers wrote to Amy upon her retirement saying that he " had been apprehensive about her appointment, but her ability and competence proved it was an excellent decision". She herself, in acknowledgment of her many tributes, said that she had worked very hard to make a success of her job, not only for her own satisfaction, but because it was a real challenge to her sex, and she hoped other women would follow in her footsteps.
Upon their return to New Zealand, Amy and John moved to Wellington, living high above Oriental Bay. In the late thirties, Amy dearly wanted to pick up the threads of her career, but her husband refused to allow her, as it would be a reflection on his ability to support her. Amy had a strong will, and acceding to his wishes seemed out of character, but in keeping with the times. She made friends with several academic women, and joined health and beauty classes, a programme that had been established in England.
In 1940 the family moved to Auckland and built a house at Brown's Bay where she had much satisfaction building up a garden on the sandy soil with seaweed collected from the nearby beach. She swam daily in the summer until well into her eighties.
Amy Winiford Page died in Auckland on the 1 July 1977, aged nearly 91 years.
Obituary "Hawera Star" 8 July 1977
Mrs Malwa Page, Auckland (daughter-in-law)
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