Flora MacKenzie

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Flora MacKenzie (1902–1982) was a New Zealand dress designer and brothel owner, based in Auckland for most of her life.

Early life[edit]

Born in 1902, Flora was the daughter of Sir Hugh Ross MacKenzie, a farmer and horse stud owner in Mangere, Auckland. After finishing secondary school, she began to train as a nurse, but did not accept discipline from the matrons who supervised trainee nursing activities. However, she discovered that she did have a flair for dressmaking, and opened Ninettes in Vulcan Lane, Auckland. Her shop became highly successful, attracting a prosperous clientele from Auckland's more affluent suburbs.

Brothel ownership[edit]

Flora embraced the sexual freedom of the 1920s, and soon found that there were other young women that wanted a private venue within which to pursue their relationships. In time, this branched out to female sex workers as well. Her father realised that Flora would probably never marry, and bought her a series of properties in Ring Terrace, Ponsonby. When the United States entered World War II, New Zealand experienced an influx of American service personnel bound for the Pacific theatre of operations. She ensured regular medical examinations for the female sex workers who lived in her venue. She lived on-site in an apartment, and had an affair with a naval lieutenant, who failed to return from the war.

While she was brought before the courts on the matter of "living off the proceeds of prostitution", this resulted in a hung jury twice, and she was not convicted thereafter. According to one witness, she was also solicitous about the spiritual welfare of her clients. When Flora died in 1982, her funeral was well-attended, for she had become a cherished civic figure, despite her occupational sideline.


  • James Dunmore: Wild Cards: Eccentric Characters from the New Zealand Past: Auckland: New Holland: 2006: ISBN 1-86966-132-X
  • Jan Jordan: "Flora MacKenzie" in Charlotte MacDonald et al. (ed) The Book of New Zealand Women: Wellington: Bridget Williams: 1991: ISBN 0-908912-04-8

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