Mary Lye was born in Martock, Somersetshire, England, and baptised there on 25 December 1822; she was the sixth of 11 children of Grace Rodd and her husband, John Lye, a farmhand on an estate. The squire's daughter taught Mary and her sisters needlework and may also have seen to their general education: Mary Lye is said to have always paid strict attention to good speech and could read, write and figure.
In 1841 Mary Lye journeyed to New Zealand with her parents, three sisters and three brothers aboard the William Bryan. The family arrived at New Plymouth on 31 March. For several months they endured the privations of life in a tent at Moturoa until a raupo whare was constructed on the site then known as Devonport.
Mary Lye married Peter Facey Hoskin at New Plymouth, probably in 1842; he had been a fellow passenger on the William Bryan. They were to have 10 children. A blacksmith by trade, Hoskin presumably had some capital on arrival in New Plymouth: it was not long before he purchased land in a central part of the township and set up a blacksmith's shop, a wine and spirit store and a general store selling groceries, haberdashery and fancy goods. Mary Hoskin ran the general store until the business was sold to H. J. Honeyfield in 1859. The remainder of the family business moved to larger premises at Victoria House.
When war broke out in Taranaki in 1860, Mary Hoskin refused to join the evacuation of women and children to Nelson. Victoria House was commandeered, and the accommodation used for visiting dignitaries; the wine and spirit store was given over to the military guard. The Hoskins had, at times, to entertain visitors such as Sir George Grey and the chief justice, George Arney.
Tragedy struck when Peter Hoskin died on 22 October 1860. Then two of the children, Helen and William Arthur, were victims of a diphtheria outbreak in June 1861. On 30 January 1862, at New Plymouth, Mary Hoskin married Archibald Hood, a member of the Royal Regiment of Artillery. They were to have two sons.
Mary Hood continued to run her business efficiently and energetically along with organising her domestic affairs and caring for her family. It is not known what part Archibald Hood played in the business, but by 1864 Victoria House was known as Mr Hood's store. Mary Hood, however, continued to play an active role in the business. Both had outside interests. Mary was an active member of the Taranaki Philharmonic Society, while Archibald took an interest in local history: he published several pamphlets and books, including one on the whaler Dicky Barrett. According to family legend Mary Hood may have had a financial interest in a grog shop in Thames. She made regular journeys to Auckland in order to purchase stock, and may have extended these journeys to include Thames to allow her to supervise her business interests there.
Mary Hood used her intelligence, tenacity and strength of character to overcome the difficulties facing a woman who simultaneously ran a successful business and raised a large family. She remained active almost until the time of her death in New Plymouth on 4 November 1902. Archibald Hood died in 1913.