Several years ago, when working at Te Ara as the theme editor for the science themes, I had a personal campaign to obtain photographs of scientists featured in the Biographies section of Te Ara (most of which came from the Dictionary of New Zealand biography).
With the help of colleagues from all over the country, most of the gaps have now been filled; but one person still lacks an image. Does anyone know of a picture of Amy Castle (1880–1971), who was an entomologist at the Dominion Museum?
Amy Castle was originally employed in 1907 as a temporary assistant at the Dominion Museum. In those days female employees were paid less than men, and filling junior positions with women was a way of saving money. She was obviously talented, and took on scientific responsibilities looking after the entomology (insect) collections. Despite her lack of formal training she was eventually appointed to a professional position as entomologist – one of the first women in the public service to be employed as a scientific role. But all the time she was only being paid two-thirds of the rate of an equivalent male employee.
Through the 1920s Castle continued to expand the entomology collections, helped groups interested in insects, undertook fieldwork and published several scientific papers. In 1931 staff numbers at the museum were cut as part of a government economy drive, and Castle was made redundant. Having been poorly paid as a woman all her career, part of the reasoning for her early retirement was that she didn’t have a family to support.
Her biography in the printed version of the Dictionary of New Zealand biography says that nothing was known about Amy Castle after 1931 – not even the date or place of her death. Subsequently, with the help of her relations, it has been established that she left New Zealand in 1957, and died in England in 1971. Her death certificate gives her occupation as ‘retired entomologist’.
We know nothing of the last 40 years of Castle’s life, and nor has a photograph of her come to light. The late Ross O’Rourke did an exhaustive search through Te Papa’s archives, without success. Can anyone help?