Mansfield memento comes home

16:00, Feb 07 2013
Oroya Day with Mansfield’s mother-of-pearl brooch
PEARLER: Oroya Day with Mansfield’s mother-of-pearl brooch, permanently lent by biographer Kathleen Jones to the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society.

It served its purpose as a talisman for Katherine Mansfield's biographer, but now the writer's brooch has come home to Wellington.

Purchased by Mansfield from an English jewellery shop in the 1900s, the mother-of-pearl brooch ended up in the hands of biographer Kathleen Jones about 10 years ago to inspire her as she wrote her book on Mansfield, one of New Zealand's most well known writers of the 20th century.

Described by Mansfield as "the little eye", the brooch was with her until she died in 1923, then was cared for by her close friend, Ida Baker.

Baker passed it on to Margaret Scott, who transcribed Mansfield's letters, and she in turn passed it on to Jones.

With the book completed in 2010, the late 19th-century brooch had served its purpose, Jones said.

"Writing it was very difficult and there were times when I wanted to give up, but the brooch was always there looking at me like a talisman - it kept me focused."


Jones has now given it on permanent loan to the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society in Thorndon, Wellington, to join the other artefacts in the museum's collection.

"It's the right place for it to be. I'm conscious of its financial and historical value and it feels right to have it at Katherine's home in New Zealand."

Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society founder Oroya Day said having such important artefacts and tokens from Mansfield's life made the birthplace more magical.

"It's a lovely gift because all of these things are special and the owners have the choice of taking it to a big museum or to the home of Katherine Mansfield," she said.

"It means a lot to have them in our collection."

The brooch will be displayed to the public later this year when the birthplace celebrates Mansfield's 125th birthday and the museum's 25th birthday in October.

A conference on Mansfield also begins at Victoria University today, with talks and tours related to her writings and life. It is on until February 11.

The Dominion Post