Story: Jackson, Ann Fletcher

Page 1 - Jackson, Ann Fletcher

Jackson, Ann Fletcher

1833–1903

Quaker evangelist

This biography was written by Margaret West and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 2, 1993

Ann Fletcher was born on 27 February 1833 at Leigh, Lancashire, England, the eldest of seven children of John Fletcher, a clogger, and his wife, Mary Brown, both of whom were members of the Society of Friends (Quakers). She became a member by birthright and attended Ackworth School. In Westhoughton, Lancashire, on 24 March 1859, Ann Fletcher married Thomas Jackson, a cordwainer. From the time of her marriage she was known as Ann Fletcher Jackson. In 1862 Thomas and Ann established a business at Birkenhead, Cheshire, where 11 children were born.

The Jacksons emigrated to New Zealand in 1878 and arrived at Auckland on the James Wishart on 12 January 1879. They were allotted about 300 acres at Otonga, north of Whangarei, which were difficult of access and covered in bush. In spite of the trials of daily life Ann Jackson found time to visit neighbouring families. She provided remedies from her medicine chest whenever there was need among settlers or Maori.

Although isolated the family held regular meetings for worship according to Quaker practice, inviting neighbours to join them. As circumstances eased, Ann Jackson, who took as prophecy an admonition given in her youth – 'Be thou faithful…the Lord will lead thee in…untrodden paths' – and who had been recorded as a minister by her meeting in England (a distinction not lightly given), was ready for a wider role. She now accepted invitations to speak at church services, Sunday schools and religious rallies of various Protestant denominations.

In 1885 the Jacksons accompanied a visiting Quaker evangelist to Auckland, seeing an opportunity to gather Friends together. Four meetings were held in the city and a decision was made to meet regularly on Sundays, with an additional meeting for business held quarterly. Ann Jackson strove to ensure that a firm organisation was maintained in the Auckland Meeting. She attended the quarterly meetings regularly, staying on in Auckland to assist the presiding clerk with minutes and correspondence. One clerk described her as 'our chief guide and counsellor in the conduct of Meeting business.'

Between 1886 and 1902 she made many journeys, usually accompanied by her husband or a son. Her travels by coastal steamer took her from Hokianga Harbour to Dunedin. She visited Friends, bringing assurance of religious fellowship and drawing isolated members together.

In 1893 the Jacksons moved to Avondale, Auckland. They could now regularly attend Sunday meeting for worship and Ann spent another day each week visiting among Friends. In addition she turned her attention to the local Sunday school, mission service, prayer meeting and Band of Hope. These all met in private homes, making the need for a public meeting place evident. With her support a committee was formed, fund-raising commenced, and Ann received donations from English Quakers. Victoria Hall opened in Avondale in 1897. Ann Fletcher Jackson died in Auckland on 15 October 1903 predeceased by her husband. She was buried in the Avondale cemetery beside Thomas and her son William.