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NZ Quaker History

History of Quakerism in New Zealand

Quakerism came to NZ from England with the early settlers. As early as 1842 there was a Quaker meeting held weekly in Nelson. This lasted for more than 20 years before being disbanded. The first established meeting was set up in Auckland in 1885. That Quakerism was able to gain a foothold in New Zealand was very much due to the tenacity and determination of individual settler families. They covered miles on dirt track by foot and cart, establishing and developing links with other ‘local’ Friends who may be many miles apart.

Anne Fletcher Jackson, 1800sAmong the most influential in establishing Quakers in New Zealand was Anne Fletcher Jackson (1833 – 1903). Born into a devout Quaker family in Lancashire, England, she moved to New Zealand in 1879 with her husband Thomas and 11 children.  They settled outside Whangarei in Northland where they held regular Quaker Meetings for Worship at their home, inviting neighbours to join them. Anne became a speaker at many local church meetings and by 1885 her work to create a Quaker network had reached a rapidly growing Auckland. Working with local Friends, she worked tirelessly to establish a Meeting for Worship in Auckland and by the end of the year this was achieved. Meetings for Worship were held regularly on Sundays, with a Meeting for Business held quarterly.

From 1886, Anne Fletcher Jackson travelled widely in New Zealand. She was usually accompanied by her husband or one of her sons as she undertook journeys by whatever means possible – on foot, by cart or by coastal steamer.  By the time of her death in 1903, through her efforts and supported by funding from English Quakers,  a network of Friends had been established from Dunedin in the south to the far north.

Over the 20th century Quakerism took root and permanent Meeting Houses were bult in Auckland, Palmerston North, Whanganui, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch (destroyed in the 2011 earthquake), and Dunedin. In addition, in 1920 a Quaker school was estabished in Whanganui. Disestablished in 1969, this now serves as The Settlement, a residential community established on Quaker principles, and education centre.  

Today, there are 30 Quaker worship groups, throughout New Zealand, from Kaitaia to Invercargill.