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Women’s lives in the Te Aroha district

Pioneer women were praised for their hard work, and this paper deals with all aspects of their lives in this district in the late nineteenth and, occasionally, the early twentieth century. Details are provided of all the women who held shares in local mines, not all of whom lived in the district and some of whom were probably dummies for their husbands. Some women had paid work, sometimes out of necessity rather than a desire to be independent, and they struggled to become financially secure on low wages. Servants were not always well treated by the women who employed them. Women’s lot included a variety of unpaid work and endless domestic duties. Some were fortunate enough to have money of their own, and sometimes held their husbands’ property in their own name, usually to protect it against his creditors. Land was also held in women’s names, usually to enable the family to hold more sections than the law permitted. Because of poverty, some women were forced to seek charitable aid. Many women were active in community life in a variety of ways, notably their churches, charity, nursing, and temperance. Younger ones enjoyed the outdoors and sports. Competition for popularity (and for a mate) meant a considerable amount of time was spent in trying to look their best and in displaying their finery at the many socials held in the district. Some women got into trouble for improper behaviour, notably drunkenness and even violence, but most of the female crime recorded was minor. Sexual misbehaviour included illegitimate children (some of whom had a short life) and abortion. Some wives were deserted, but some women were able to remarry. At the end of this paper, there are accounts of several women’s lives, some of them unhappy– unhappiness being more easily uncovered because of the sources available for historians.
Working Paper
Type of thesis
Te Aroha Mining District Working Papers
Hart, P. (2016). Women’s lives in the Te Aroha district. (Te Aroha Mining District Working papers, No. 126). Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato, Historical Research Unit.
Historical Research Unit, University of Waikato
© 2016 Philip Hart

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