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Mary Sutherland

Forester and botanist (1893-1955)

Mary Sutherland was the first woman in the United Kingdom to complete a BSc in forestry, and became New Zealand’s first forestry assistant in 1923. For a long time she was the only such female staff member. Although her botanical skills were acknowledged, she was seldom sent on fieldwork in part because it might mean paying for separate accommodation – she and the men couldn’t share a tent.1 Instead, Sutherland was employed in time-consuming microscopic work. In 1934 she published a paper on the genus pinus in the Royal Society Te Apārangi’s Transactions. When the forest service downsized, she shifted to Wellington Dominion Museum, where an initial job title of "clerk" was eventually changed to "botanist". In 1946 Sutherland began her most important work as the only farm forestry officer for the Department of Agriculture. She planned plantation layouts, made field inspections and wrote about the benefits of trees on farms.2


1. New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu Taonga, ‘Sutherland, Mary’, Web page, accessed 9 August 2017, /en/biographies/4s58/sutherland-mary.

2. Charlotte Macdonald, Merimeri Penfold, and Bridget R. Williams, The Book of New Zealand Women (B. Williams Books, 1991), p. 642.

This profile is part of the series 150 Women in 150 Words that celebrates women’s contributions to expanding knowledge in New Zealand, running as part of our 150th Anniversary.