Nature's trustee : Pérrine Moncrieff and nature conservation in New Zealand 1920-1950 : thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in History at Massey University
This study addresses the question of Pérrine Moncrieff's significance within the movement for nature conservation in New Zealand between 1920 and 1950. Although it is an examination of her beliefs and ideas about the natural world and activities towards indigenous wild fauna and flora, it also shows how her contemporaries viewed nature and acted towards it. Thus it places Moncrieff into a conservationist setting in which there were many, often conflicting, viewpoints. Moncrieff's vitalist, holistic world-view, and her science and aesthetics as the most important elements of her conservation, are charted historically against what was then, and remains, the orthodox, scientific, materialist world-view. Within this contextualisation, her participation in the ornithological discourse is examined first as birds were her entry to the natural world. The study then investigates the ways in which she achieved her successes of nature reserves, the opposition she encountered, and the assistance she obtained. It looks at the ways in which she sought to promote a conservation perspective amongst New Zealanders, and at reasons for her failure. Her position within the land degradation debates is analysed. Lastly the question of her sex on her work is examined; the extent of her agency in the face of gendered expectations. Arguments were achieved by the close examination of her extant correspondence and published writings, and by the interpretation of her beliefs, ideas and activities within the body of existing historical scholarship. Threading through all chapters is the question of why she "disappeared" from the historical record of conservation, given the contemporary status she achieved for her work. The analysis suggests that the answer is not simply the conventional "because she was a woman"; that other factors operated, including the assumption by today's Green movement, that it has no history.