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New heritage plaques honour great local women

An iconic and much-loved Wellington broadcaster was remembered this week with the unveiling of a plaque in her honour.

The plaque on the Dixon Street footpath outside the Hope Gibbons building remembers Maud Basham, affectionately known as Aunt Daisy, who broadcast from the building on the corner of Taranaki and Dixon streets for 2ZB for 27 years until her death in 1963, aged 84.

The unveiling of the plaque by Councillor Nicola Young, kicks the Wellington City Council heritage plaques project that she is progressing as part of her Central City portfolio.

The unveiling of the plaque for Maud Basham coincided with the celebration of 125 years of women’s suffrage in New Zealand.

Two other notable Wellington women will have plaques unveiled in coming weeks to continue the women’s suffrage theme: Catholic nun and social worker Suzanne Aubert (also known as Sister Mary Joseph and Mother Aubert), and writer Iris Wilkinson, better known as Robin Hyde.

More plaques will be installed in Wellington each year, gradually telling more about Wellington’s history.

Councillor Young says Basham, known as the “first lady of radio”, blazed a trail for women in broadcasting with her role as Aunt Daisy.

“She was probably New Zealand’s first celebrity foodie, and published 10 cookbooks; one was reprinted 21 times and some are still in print. Her unsophisticated recipes show how much New Zealand has changed, although we all know the classics such as brandy snaps and Anzac biscuits,” says Cr Young. “I still use her recipe for bumble bee biscuits.
“Aunt Daisy was both famous and loved; her frenetic patter was networked throughout New Zealand. She was an unbridled optimist, a committed Christian, and a shameless promoter of the products that funded her show – although she insisted on testing everything she advertised, so her audience really trusted her.

“When she sailed to the US in 1938 on a goodwill mission, Wellington’s Town Hall overflowed with fans wishing her well and the train stations en route to Auckland were crowded with well-wishers singing her programme’s theme song.”

Wellington Mayor Justin Lester says it is important to recognise a city’s history.
“These plaques will serve to inform people and remind us that Wellington’s buildings are more than just concrete and steel, but part of our city’s living history and our people,” the Mayor says.

“The plaques are a fitting tribute to the many special people who have helped make the capital the wonderful city it is today.”