Jane Emery was born at Waiteti, Te Kuiti and was one of 12 children born to Jeremiah Robert Ormsby and his wife Ngapaki nee Tana (Turner). When Jeremiah died, Ngapaki raised the family, ran the farm and sold land in order to educate her children. Emery went to Te Kuiti Primary School, Te Kuiti District High School and Hukarere Māori Girls’ College. After leaving school she became a teacher at Tokaanu School until her marriage in 1928 to Robert Emery. She did various extension courses in Auckland and Hamilton. After her wedding, her home and family became her main priority; she and Robert had a family of seven children of whom six survived. She was a keen diarist and wrote regularly in her diary from the 1920s until her death in 1976 - a tradition that her family have emulated. Jane also wrote non-fiction articles in the NZ Dairy Exporter, Waitomo News, NZ Woman’s Weekly and church newspapers. Her articles often caused controversy as she tackled racial prejudice in New Zealand. Her first letter to the New Zealand Dairy Exporter in 1946 entitled “A Māori Mother Makes A Plea For Greater Understanding” provoked a spirited response from New Zealand Dairy Exporter correspondents over the next four years. Her writing of a colour bar in New Zealand shocked rural readers who in the 1940s still believed that New Zealand had the best race relations in the world. She grew up in the era of Pei Te Hurinui Jones and was committed to Māori development. She was a member of tribal committees, the Māori Women’s Welfare League, Mothers Union, Christian Women’s Institute, Anglican Church committees and Soldiers’ Support in the Second World War and the Korean War. Jane was a Maniapoto Representative at various Conferences and Parliamentary Delegations. She wrote using the signature J.E. or J.W.H. and variants of her full name.
Her daughter Aroha Greenland states: “She was a great mother. She taught us a lot and we thought we were very lucky that she had had the education she did as she helped our father and her children. Her children had to read the Bible every morning not only for the Bible teaching but also to learn sentence construction and her sons had to read the Editorial of the Herald each day in order to learn about world affairs and the English language.” Emery’s son, Robert Emery writes “My parents were not writers in the true sense of the word. In the case of Mother, her writing was mainly a form of therapy. This was a habit that evolved from her own childhood and indulged to a great degree by most of her brothers and sisters. On the other hand, Father’s enthusiasm was nurtured through the influences of his wife... The emphasis of their writing was anecdotal, the backdrop being their family past and present. Occasionally they ventured into spiritual realms both Māori and European. These forays however were primarily for family consumption.”
- Phone conversation with Robert Emery and Aroha Greenland, 9 May, 13 May 1998.
- Correspondence from Robert Emery, 13 May 1998.
- "A Māori Mother Makes A Plea For Greater Understanding." New Zealand Dairy Exporter 1 Nov. 1946: 97-98.
- Written under the name J. E.
An impassioned plea for a fair and accurate acknowledgment in the New Zealand Dairy Exporter of the contribution of Māori women. She also asks for a recognition of the challenges facing Māori women. J.E. challenges Pakeha women to acknowledge the colour bar in New Zealand and to have a greater understanding of Māori.
- "J.E. Puts Forward Viewpoint Of A Māori Woman." New Zealand Dairy Exporter 1 Aug. 1947: 75.
- Written under the name J. E.
Emery responds to a letter published in the Dairy Exporter by “Duck”. She writes of her home district and comments further on the colour bar in New Zealand and the dilemma facing Māori trying to accommodate “the Western fabric of progress or civilisation.”
- "Fascinating Shellcraft." Te Ao Hou 15 (1956): 61.
- A description of making craft objects using shells.
- "Mr Bill Kohi Of Otorohanga." Te Ao Hou 54 (1966): 4-6.
- Co-authors Jane and Bob Emery.
A biography of World War One veteran William (Bob) Kohi. The authors write of his entry into the military service, and his work with budget counselling in Otorohanga. They also recount various anecdotal stories told by Kohi on his childhood at Waahi Pa, his gum-digging excursions and his working career.
- "Budget Prone." Te Ao Hou 58 (1967): 13-15.
- In this article advocating the merits of budgeting, Emery writes that Māori tupuna were very budget-conscious and that the mana of the rangātira rested on their ability to feed and clothe their tribe. Emery notes that despite the difficulties arising from the dominant use of money in today’s society, "with purposeful planning, the ‘money taniwha’, like the errant sun god, can also be harnessed to serve our needs". Emery advocates the benefits of the Household Budgeting Advisory Service which Dr Paewai introduced to Kaikohe in 1960.