Image of Edith Howes


Lifetime: 1872 - 1954 Passed: ≈ 69 years ago


Teacher, Educationalist


New Zealand

Edith Howes

Edith Annie Howes was a New Zealand teacher, educationalist, and writer of children's literature. She was a Member of the Order of the British Empire and received the King George VI Coronation Medal for her services to literature.

She was born in London, England, one of five children of Cecilia Brown and William Howes, a post office clerk and accountant. Her brother George became a noted entomologist.

The family emigrated to New Zealand when she was very young. She attended Kaiapoi Borough School, where she later became a pupil teacher.

In 1893 she completed her training to become a teacher at Christchurch. She taught at several different schools including Ashburton, Wanganui, and Makarewa before becoming the infant mistress at Gore School in 1899. She eventually rose to be headmistress, remaining in that position from 1914 until 1917.

In 1917 she moved to the Wellington Girls' College, where she was the head of the junior department. She stayed in this position until 1919, when she retired from teaching.

Howe was an early advocate for the Montessori method and the philosophy behind kindergartens. She became known as an educational reformer, pushing for a less institutional learning environment featuring smaller class sizes and quieter, more comfortable classrooms. She was a feminist who believed strongly that higher education was critical for women to participate fully in civic life.

Howe began writing children's books around 1910, believing that stories and songs helped children to learn. Although she worked in the genre of fairy tales, she saw that there was not enough written material on scientific subjects available to New Zealand schoolchildren, so she made a point of incorporating scientific information and natural phenomena into her books. For example, in The Cradle Ship (1922) she offered a true account of where babies come from, making the book a minor landmark in sex education for children. She wrote some 30 books altogether, the best-known of which are Fairy Rings (1911) and The Cradle Ship, which was translated into several other languages.

Howe also wrote for adults, including books on education (Tales Out of School; The Great Experiment), plays, and an opera libretto. She was nominated by Professor Francis Prendeville Wilson for the 1928 Nobel Prize in Literature. Her play Rose Lane (1936) won a British Drama League prize.

In the 1935 King's Birthday Honours, Howes was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire, for public services, and in 1937 she was awarded the King George VI Coronation Medal.

She moved to Dunedin in 1941 and lived there until her death on 9 July 1954.

Books by Edith Howes

Maoriland Fairy Tales Cover image

Maoriland Fairy Tales

Fiction Fairy Tale
Children's Literature Myths Legends

Most of the tales have some basis in history. It is an oral language so all histories have to be remembered and retold. To help with this memory retelling the carvings all have relative information and prompts, stories of Atua (sort of gods) and othe...

The Sun's Babies Cover image

The Sun's Babies

Fairy Tale
Animal Children Nature Children's Literature Poems Life

Charming stories and poems for young children about nature and the changes that occur with the seasons, weaving in life lessons throughout the stories.