Sonja Davies

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Sonja Davies
Sonja Davies.jpg
Marching On is the second volume of Sonja Davies' autobiography
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Pencarrow
In office
1987 – 1993
Preceded by Fraser Colman
Succeeded by Trevor Mallard
Personal details
Born Sonja Margaret Loveday Vile
(1923-11-11)11 November 1923
Wallaceville, New Zealand
Died 12 June 2005(2005-06-12) (aged 81)
Wellington, New Zealand
Political party Labour
Relations Job Vile (great-grandfather)

Sonja Margaret Loveday Davies ONZ (née Vile, 11 November 1923 – 12 June 2005) was a New Zealand trade unionist, peace campaigner, and Member of Parliament. On 6 February 1987 Davies was the third appointee to the Order of New Zealand.[1]

Early life[edit]

Sonja Vile was born in the Upper Hutt suburb of Wallaceville in 1923.[2] Her mother was Gwladys Ilma Vile, a nurse,[2] and a granddaughter of Job Vile.[3] Sonja Vile only learned of her father's identity, the Irish army major Gerald Dempsey, when she was 20, but never made any contact. She had four different foster homes before her grandparents took her in, and they lived in Oamaru and Woodville. Aged seven, she went back to her mother in Wellington to live with her younger sister and her new step-father. The family moved to Dunedin, then Auckland, and in 1939 back to Wellington; by then, she also had a younger brother. The speeches by pacifists Ormond Burton and Arch Barrington appealed to her social conscience but caused tension with her parents, and she consequently left home aged 16 supporting herself by work in bookshops.[2]

Involvement in unions[edit]

Davies helped to found the Working Women's Council, and in 1974 she became the first female executive of the Federation of Labour.

Member of Parliament[edit]

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
1987–1990 42nd Pencarrow Labour
1990–1993 43rd Pencarrow Labour

Davies became the Labour MP for Pencarrow in 1987 and served two terms, retiring in 1993; Trevor Mallard replaced her. Davies died in Wellington in 2005.[4]


Her autobiography, Bread and Roses: Her Story, (ISBN 1-86953-162-0), was turned into a film in 1994. Directed by Gaylene Preston, the film was also called Bread and Roses. A second volume of autobiography, Marching On (ISBN 1-86941-296-6) was published in 1997.


  1. ^ "The Order of New Zealand" (12 February 1987) 20 New Zealand Gazette 705 at 709.
  2. ^ a b c Else, Anne. "Sonja Davies". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 29 May 2015. 
  3. ^ "Vile: John D. Vile and Ann Foster". Retrieved 29 May 2015. 
  4. ^ Taylor, Kevin (20 June 2005). "Sonja Davies – 'A very great New Zealander'". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 29 May 2015. 

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Fraser Colman
Member of Parliament for Pencarrow
Succeeded by
Trevor Mallard