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Emily Cumming Harris

(1837-1925)
Notable Women Walk
Emily was born about 1837 and arrived in New Plymouth in March 1841 with her parents, one brother and two sisters. Her father, Edwin Harris, was a civil engineer and surveyor as well as an artist. Her mother conducted two schools on New Plymouth and Emily became an assistant teacher.

(1837-1925)

Notable Women Walk

Emily was born about 1837 and arrived in New Plymouth in March 1841 with her parents, one brother and two sisters. Her father, Edwin Harris, was a civil engineer and surveyor as well as an artist. Her mother conducted two schools on New Plymouth and Emily became an assistant teacher.

The Harris family moved to Nelson from Taranaki at the time of the Waitara War. Edwin was a drawing master at Nelson College and for nearly 20 years at the Bishops School.

With Emily he conducted a private drawing school and Emily became a teacher of drawing in an infant school which she and her sisters had in Nelson.

All three sisters painted and sketched but Emily was sent to Hobart to study art. Emily Harris was, of necessity, one of the few pioneering women artists here to try to earn a living solely by painting and teaching drawing. In the 1890s the Harris sisters exhibited in the Shelbourne School room in Nelson.

Her diaries held by the Taranaki Museum detail the difficulties she endured in exhibiting. To be an artist in New Zealand’s small community meant making the effort to transport work for exhibitions outside Nelson. Her great love was New Zealand flowers and plants, she also wrote several small books on New Zealand berries, ferns and flowers. Many of her paintings [63] are in the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington.

Further reading

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography (DNZB)

Read more about Emily Harris at DNZB.

Burial Records

  • Harris Edwin buried 26 May 1895 aged 89 years
  • Harris Sarah buried 7 September 1879 aged 73 years
  • Harris Augusta buried 3 September 1870 aged 21 years
  • Harris Ellen buried 31 March 1895 aged 44 years
  • Harris Emily Cumming buried 6 August 1925 aged 88 years

Headstone transcription

Sacred to the Memory of Edwin Harris died May 25th 1895 aged 89 years. Also of his beloved wife Sarah Harris died September 5th 1879 aged 73 years. And the daughters of the above Augusta Harris died 31st  August 1870 aged 22 years, Ellen Harris died 29 March 1895 aged 44 years. Emily Cumming Harris died 5 August 1925 aged 88 years. Sacred to the memory of Edwin Harris died 25 May 1895 aged 89 years. Also of his beloved wife Sarah Harris died 5 September 1879 aged 73 years. And the daughters of the above Augusta Harris died 31.

For more information

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