Children’s lives in the Te Aroha district
Hart, P. (2016). Children’s lives in the Te Aroha district. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 127). Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10461
Exaggerated claims have been made about the joys experienced by children living on goldfields, but indeed many did have happy memories. Childhood for many included working to supplement the family income at quite a young age, and examples are given of the wide variety of work undertaken. Some jobs, as in the battery, was exhausting, none were highly paid, and not all young workers were well treated. Life could be dangerous, as illustrated by the variety of accidents, some fatal. The river claimed some lives, as did fires in homes. Ill health was common, with periodic epidemics causing deaths – some families experienced multiple deaths. Abandoned or uncontrollable children were sent to Industrial Homes, and some stepmothers lived up to their reputations, and several children suffered from cruel treatment. Although most juvenile crimes were of a minor nature, early experimentation caused moral panic amongst parents. Adults provided organized activities of an improving nature, especially sports and social gatherings, and some even went on trips to other places. Military cadets were formed, and it was possible to participate in arts and crafts, including music. And all children had ways to make their own, unorganized, fun. All of which suggests that for most children, while their life was not as idyllic as some would claim, it was generally happy.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart