Amelia Randall’s life was like that of the servant with ten talents, who while receiving a lot, made a lot more out of it. But it was not all fun and roses – there was a bit in the middle when everything was taken away, and she had to reinvent her life.
Amelia was born in France into some privilege, receiving an excellent education and travelling extensively. After she married, she and her husband moved to Ghana for a business venture. But then her husband died. In the aftermath, it was revealed that the business had been majorly mismanaged, and Amelia was left destitute.
She initially found a job teaching. Then later she was offered a position as a companion/housekeeper for her twice-widowed uncle in Napier, NZ. At 31 years old, this was the beginning of a new life.
Working with her uncle, she developed business skills and then independently built-up financial resources that she put to God’s work in a variety of ways. Here are some excerpts from her biography:
Amelia Randall was a devout Baptist, and in 1887 was one of the prime movers when it was decided to build a church. She persuaded her uncle (although he was an Anglican) to donate a section in Hooper’s Lane, backing on Tiffen Park, and herself gave generous financial contributions. When the church was moved across the road in 1892, to Tennyson Street, she again gave money and assistance. She was treasurer of the Napier Baptist Church at this time, and was an organist for many years.
In May 1892, with other members of the Napier Baptist women’s group, she helped found the Hawke’s Bay Children’s Home for orphaned and abandoned children. Again her administrative expertise was called upon. She was first treasurer of the home (1892–1913), secretary (1893–95), on the house committee (1892–1915), and on the board of trustees (1906–19), during which time she was the only woman board member. When the home moved to a new building in 1909 it was named for her.
Amelia Randall’s monetary contributions to this and other causes increased in frequency and significance after her uncle’s death in 1896, when she inherited nearly half of his vast estate. Although she employed a manager to oversee the practical aspects of farming, she was described as ‘a good business woman’ and took a special interest in her employees, many of whom later received bequests from her.
[Her farm] was the largest in the North Island around the turn of the century, exporting apples and pears, and was renowned for the quality of its fruit. The Napier Baptist Church was always decorated with flowers from her garden, and a bountiful supply of fruit from the farm was provided for the annual harvest festival.
Upon her death, half her money was given to the Hawke’s Bay Children’s Home, to various Baptist organisations, and for building a new Baptist church in Napier. The rest was placed in trust for the establishment of a Baptist college for both boys and girls.
Irene Lister “Randall, Amelia Mary”, Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, first published in 1996. Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, https://teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/3r2/randall-amelia-mary (accessed 16 May 2020)