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Our namesake

Hilda Ross (1883-1959)

Dame Hilda Ross was a pioneering politician and welfare activist who dedicated her political career to standing up for the rights of women and children.

Her impact on New Zealand was such that she was accorded a State Funeral when she died, and created an important legacy of compassion in New Zealand politics.

Born in Whangarei in 1883, Hilda grew up in Sydney and Auckland, and was a keen musician and later a music teacher.

In 1904 she married Harry Ross, and the couple moved to Hamilton.

Her interest in social welfare began when the 1918 Influenza Epidemic struck New Zealand. She worked tirelessly to help the sick during the epidemic and her experiences and concern for the health of younger people led her to help establish the Waikato Children’s Health Camp in 1927.

She entered local body politics in 1941 when she was elected to the Waikato Health Board, and became a Hamilton Borough Councillor in 1944.

In May 1945 the Hamilton seat became vacant, and she was selected to stand for the National Party, becoming the party’s first woman MP.

It marked the start of a long political career with the National Party – Dame Hilda was popular in Hamilton and was elected another five times as the city’s MP.

In 1949 she was made Minister in Charge of the Welfare of Women and Children, and she later became Minister for Social Security.

Her work in the Hamilton community was recognised when she was granted the Freedom of the City. She founded numerous local groups, including the Choral Society, the Women's Auxiliary Volunteer Corps and she was president of the Hamilton Women's Patriotic Committee during World War II.

Her biographer described her as a woman of forthright character and direct manner who always spoke up for the rights of women and children.

She was one with a great respect for her fellow beings, especially for those in need and she never failed to work for their good.

Dame Hilda had two sons, and she died in March 1959.