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Friday with Simone Nathan

Suffrage Week Series

Published: 21 September 2018

To celebrate the 125th anniversary of women's suffrage in New Zealand, every day this week we're exploring the stories behind great Auckland women and the legacy they’ve left behind. You can also find out about the buildings around the city honouring them.

For Friday – Simone Nathan, organiser, fundraiser and advocate for women and children. 

History

Born and raised in Paris, Simone Nathan (née Oulman) moved to Auckland in the 1910s, described at the time as a ‘vivacious Frenchwoman.'

Friday with Simone Nathan (1)
Simone Nathan (in the dark-coloured hat) pictured with her husband David at a garden party for the Governor-General in 1937. Photograph from Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries.

Although the move to Auckland was a culture shock for Simone, she threw herself into her new community and settled with her husband – Aucklander David Lawrence Nathan – in his home on Karangahape Road.

David’s family were well-known in Auckland’s business and Jewish circles, and Simone joined the New Zealand Women’s Zionist Organisation, going on to serve as its president for 30 years.

Fundraiser extraordinaire

Simone is best remembered for her extensive and long-lasting work with Plunket.

Inspired by the organisation’s positive impact, Simone drove extensive fundraising to support the welfare of women and babies, particularly in Palestine. Infant mortality in Palestine was high at the time and Simone’s efforts raised enough money for three infant welfare centres in Te Aviv and Jaffa. By 1937 the welfare centres she supported had treated 5000 babies and were manned by local nurses who had received Plunket training.  

Simone ultimately became president of Plunket’s Auckland branch and was recognised for her exceptional organizational skills and energy, raising thousands of pounds for ‘Plunket nurses for Palestine’ and even arranging for the Post Office to frank letters with a stamp advertising the project.

Friday with Simone Nathan
The Nathan Homestead in 2015. Photograph from Auckland Council.

Simone and David’s second home, the Nathan Homestead, built in 1925, was the site and heartland of much of Simone’s planning. It still serves the public today as a community centre and is a scheduled site in the Auckland Unitary Plan.