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Relatives sought for Women’s Rest building’s 100-year celebration

Womens Rest

The Hastings Municipal Women’s Rest building will be turning 100 this year, and celebration organisers are keen to hear from any relatives of the original donors who made the building possible.

On March 23, 1921, the Hastings District Council-owned building on the corner of Russell and Eastbourne Streets opened, attracting almost 10,000 visitors in its first year of operation, and its ongoing significance to Hastings is multi-faceted.

Architecturally it’s an excellent example of the Californian bungalow-style widely seen in domestic buildings across New Zealand in the 1920s, here used to good effect as a women’s rest rooms.

Its historical value comes from it being the first purpose-built women’s rest rooms to be built in New Zealand, leading the way for these kind of facilities that signified both the proper involvement of women in public life and of civic responsibility to women.

The building also has social significance in its function of consistently providing a space for women and children – both from in town and those visiting from rural areas.

An extract from a 1929 publicity booklet for the facility describes it as: “A retiring place where young business women may spend their lunch hour, or as a place of rest and social service to mothers and to all women visitors to the town. Here they may obtain light refreshments, mothers may attend to their children, warm their babies’ bottles, leave their parcels, write letters, read current journals and attend to their toilet.”

The building came about thanks to the generosity of a number of donors, and due to the foresight of former mayor George Ebbett. A plaque at the building lists the donors as Mrs J Garnett, WF and FJK Knight, George Ebbett, W P Thompson, Coromandel Granite Co. and de Pelichet McLeod & Co.

Hastings councillor and organising committee member Eileen Lawson acknowledged the foresight of the district’s forebears in providing a special place for our local town and country women.

“This building and the function it serves has continued to evolve to meet the changing needs of the community.”

Heretaunga Women’s Centre manager Amanda Meynell said the organisers of the 100-year celebration were keen to hear from any relatives of the donors, in the hopes they could attend and their family and business contributions be acknowledged.

While the centre was historically significant, it was just as much an important community asset today, she said.

“This building is home to the Heretaunga Women’s Centre, which is a charitable trust that works collectively for positive change for women.

“We believe in sharing skills and strengths to provide women with resources to take responsibility for their own wellbeing, and a safe environment for support and companionship.”

A range of services, courses, programmes and activities are offered to achieve this, as well as it being a place where women can drop in for a cup of tea or coffee, the public toilets and a nursery where they can change, feed and play with their babies and children.”

The Centre also offers a number of support services including counselling, therapeutic supports, legal advice and advocacy. 

If any relatives of the original donors wish to get in touch they can email Amanda at manager@hwc.nz.

More details about the event on March 23 will be made available closer to the time.

16 February 2021

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