Mollie Ngan Kee (1925-2013) was N.Z.’s first Chinese woman Justice of the Peace, city councillor (1973-1983), deputy Mayor (1980-83) and marriage celebrant. Mollie was also a member of the Wellington Hospital Board (1983-86) and helped found the Hutt Ethnic Council too. In 2001 Mollie was “tickled pink” to receive a Companion of the Queen’s Order (QSO) for her community work. (Hutt News 12 June 2001).
“Passionately family oriented” her election campaigns were family affairs with her four children and husband mobilised to help. Her son Mark remembered …. “I think we ran along every street in Lower Hutt delivering her campaign pamphlets”. (Dominion Post, 14 August 2013).
Mollie Ngan Kee was born Mollie Kwok in October 1925, the 5th of 10 children. Her father William was of Southern Chinese heritage and his business provided fruit and vegetable for ships in Wellington. At 18 Mollie displayed leadership by helping set up Wellington’s first Chinese youth club the “Chinese Progress Club” and the first Chinese sports tournament.
Mollie’s brother Frank was an Otago medical student and introduced her to fellow medical student Bill Ngan Kee who she later married at the Boulcott Street, Wellington Baptist Church in 1954 after a five year engagement – “the longest engagement ever” – according to husband Bill. Because both families were prominent the wedding was traditionally large with 500 guests. (Stokes Valley Times July 2004).
Mollie and husband Bill moved to Stokes Valley in 1957 where Bill started the first full-time medical practice. He was a GP in Stokes Valley for over 40 years and Mollie was instrumental in establishing the Stokes Valley Community House in 1978.
Mollie and Bill had four children; Tim, Mark, Susan, Vicki and many grandchildren. They made three family trips to China including two trips with their grandchildren to give them awareness of their Chinese heritage. Bill and Mollie celebrated their Golden Wedding in 2004 and when Bill died in 2009 Mollie “lost her rock” but continued with her family and community activities. Mollie died in 2013 and son Mark commented she had strong standards about what was fair and unfair and “an amazing gift” to achieve the best outcome compassionately and considerately. (Dominion Post 14 August 2013).
In 1893 New Zealand became the first country in the world in which all women gained the right to vote in general elections. 2018 marks the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. For more information about the anniversary visit Suffrage 125 on Facebook.
This is part of a series sharing the stories and lives of women who have a connection to Lower Hutt.