Businesswoman and philanthropist

Founder of Smith and Caughey's

Marianne Smith stood out among the philanthropic women of Auckland in the early 20th century - unlike most she had earned the money she gave away.

Born Mary Anne Caughey in Northern Ireland in 1851, the devout Methodist migrated to New York as a newly-wed with husband William Smith in the mid-1870s, where she became involved with a refuge for single mothers.

She returned to Ireland five years later to set up a charitable mission in Belfast but soon migrated to New Zealand due to William's ailing health.

It was then that Marianne established Smith's Cheap Drapery Warehouse on Auckland's Queen Street, which quickly became so successful, her husband left his job to join his wife's business.


Smith, according to the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, sold goods at tight margins, following the mottos "small profits and quick returns" and "a nimble sixpence rather than slow shilling".

When Smith's brother, Andrew Caughey, moved to New Zealand in 1882, he joined his sister's business, which was renamed Smith & Caughey. Laws of the time meant that Marianne was not formally recognised as a partner in her own business, however, she continued to play a critical role in its success and later became a shareholder.

The store began selling high-quality goods from around the world and remains a mainstay of the Auckland retail scene today.

After William's death in 1912, Smith sat on the board of Smith & Caughey and would remain on it until she died in 1938.

Among her philanthropic activities, Smith donated her family home in Herne Bay to the Salvation Army for a girls' orphanage and gifted two parks to Auckland.