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Sisters of the Past

Sister Martina Elizabeth Speight

6 December 1868 20 December 1948martina-speight-ssj

Profiled January 2013

Elizabeth Speight was born in Glasgow on 6 December 1868.  Her parents were Joseph and Elizabeth, nee Quinn.  Her father Joseph’s family were from Yorkshire and he worked as foreman in a spinning mill.  This possibly took his family to Glasgow about 1866 to 1873 before they emigrated to New Zealand in 1880.  This may have been why Elizabeth identified herself as being English.   Her mother Elizabeth was born in Ireland, married in Yorkshire and died only 2 years after arriving in New Zealand, leaving a family of 5 or 6 children from 5 to 19 years old.  Joseph remarried in 1890 in Christchurch, and was living in Kakaramea in Taranaki when his sons enlisted for World War 1. The father and second family are all Church of England.
One brother Joseph, later lived in Taranaki, and is buried in Hawera.  A sister, Mary Ellen, was born in Yorkshire in April 1877.  She entered the Congregation of the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion in Wellington, and became Sister Mary Louise.  She died in 1909.

Elizabeth entered the Sisters of St Joseph in October or November 1896, at the age of 30, and was professed on 4 January 1899, taking the religious name of Martina. 
Sister Martina taught in the Josephite primary schools, notably Patea, Otaki, Feilding, Hawera, Waipawa, Taihape and Manaia.  She is thought to have  also taught at Sacred Heart College. 
Sr Margaret Hurley, then a country school pupil, recalled being prepared for First Communion by Sr Martina on the Patea Convent verandah.  She liked Martina as she was kind and gentle.

Sr Martina died peacefully at Sacred Heart on 20 December 1948, having been professed for 50 years.  Requiem Mass was celebrated at Sacred Heart Chapel and she was buried at Aramoho Cemetery, Whanganui.

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