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WILLIAMS, HELEN ELIZABETH THOMSON (NELLIE) nee HAYES (SISTER)

 

Nellie Hayes spent her early years as a resident of the Isle of Man, coming to New Zealand at the age of 15.  In 1905, she became the first president of the nationwide Methodist Young Women's Bible Class Union.

 

During the early years, members of the MYWBCU were enthused with the idea of promoting home mission work among Maori women and girls, and in 1907 passed a resolution  to that effect.  At the time it was a bold decision, as not only was it a responsible undertaking but it also extended the opportunities for single women to move into work which combined family welfare with evangelism.  Sister Nellie Hayes was their first appointee and members followed with interest her work in Taranaki.

 

In 1908 she was appointed to work amongst the Maori women and children at Okaiawa. Her main job was to organise Sunday Schools and to be responsible for encouraging Maori women to take up missionary work.

 

The MYWBCU kept up their support in a number of ways.  They raised money for building and furnishing a mission hall at Sister Nellie's station at Okaiawa, they bought furniture for her cottage and timber for putting up a fence and building a buggy shed, and they supplied Maori hymn books and testaments.

 

Sister Nellie kept bible classes informed and stirred them to political action when she spoke of the confusion caused by the lack of vital statistics for Maori.  A petition for circulation among bible class girls of all denominations was drawn up, praying the Government to make compulsory the registration of  Maori births, deaths and marriages.  With leadership from Mrs E O Blamires, (nee Annie Anderson of MYWBCU) the petition was presented and, in 1913, the required legislation was passed.

 

During the flu epidemic of 1918, Nellie organised and directed an emergency hospital for Maoris under canvas in the grounds of the old hospital (now Ngahuru).  In 1922 she married Lewis James Williams and maintained her interest in the Maori people until ill health prevented her.

 

Helen Elizabeth Williams died at Wellington on the 11 May 1950 aged 77 years and is buried at the Hawera cemetery.

 

SOURCES

Out of the Silence - Methodist Women of Aotearoa 1822-1985 by Ruth Fry

Obituary "Hawera Star"