On 16 February 1877 Maggie McIntyre started work as a servant to Mrs Reid in Dunedin; on 16 February 2015 I started a new job, also in Dunedin. The difference between me and Maggie McIntyre is that 16 May finds me alive; Maggie died this day in 1877, starved, beaten, and lying filthy under a thin blanket on a flax-filled half mattress on the floor under a broken window through which a chill wind blew. Today I have the fire going: it is 9ºC (49ºF), and we are heading into winter.
In my three months in my new job I have been paid 6 times; and I have had 29 days off. No one has banned me from speaking to people, punched me, kicked me, pulled me by my hair across the floor, nor had me out in my bare feet to pick up stones and drag tree branches through the frosty night. Maggie was not so lucky. She was never paid one penny, nor allowed even one half day off. She suffered and died as a direct result of the treatment received at the hands of Mrs Reid.
Mrs Reid was tried for manslaughter in the Dunedin Supreme Court. Robert Stout defended her. The jury acquitted her, and she walked free. The people of Dunedin were incensed: those who know Maggie McIntyre’s story are still incensed.
Today on the 138th anniversary of her death, I remember Maggie McIntyre.
Your story is not forgotten Maggie; you are not forgotten.