European New Zealand Women on the Home front during World War I

These European New Zealand women were among many who remained on the home front whilst the men left for war in Europe. These women had to become accustomed to the absence of their husbands and learn to take on their roles while they were away as well as continuing to provide for their home and family.

A story by Mrs I McIntyre
My name is Mrs McIntyre I am a European-NZ woman and my husband left for the War a few months ago. It is 1915 and he was dispatched later than most of our soldiers. I thought that maybe he might be able to stay home with the family. This has been an extreme change for our family and for us to get used to, as he is no longer around to help with jobs around the house. I am used to looking after our children, the garden and our home. With my husband gone I have had to take on many new roles, such as chopping and gathering fire wood and working in the factory. To distract myself and become accustomed to not having my husband around I joined the Spinsters Club. We regularly meet to try and provide for the soldiers in the war. We feel that this is our way of helping over there, when we cannot physically be there ourselves, for our husbands and for our country.

In this photo it is 1915 and the other women and I are knitting socks for the soldiers. We try and provide them with the comforts that the soldiers need in their kit bags: two pairs each of socks and underpants, two each of woollen shirts and undershirts, towels and cholera belts, and one handkerchief, chest protector, pair of braces, holdall, balaclava cap, service bag for rations, and a housewife.” (“Women fundraising for Belgium, First World War”, 2013. Para 7).

We believe this is the best way we can contribute. Although I am keeping my family well, healthy and together, I still miss my husband and pray for his return as soon as possible.

Zachariah, J. (1915). Members of the Spinsters club knitting socks for World War I soldiers.
Retrieved from

A Woman from Otago
I am a member of the Otago Women’s Patriotic Association. I am a European-NZ woman and my husband
is a solider in the war in Europe; he recently was balloted to provide his services. Our family slowly has to adjust to the changes during his absence. I look after the family and my eldest daughter is helping me with the young children. We are a family of five with three children. We are doing our best to run our daily lives smoothly just as we did before my husband left.

In order to help and contribute to the War I joined the Otago-based Women’s Patriotic Association. Joining this association has helped me cope with the loneliness I feel while my husband is away. We have been fundraising for the soldiers so that we can help and provide for them their essential needs while they are away. In this photo  it is 1914 and we are are being congratulated for our fund-raising efforts. Our fundraising also helps gather support for our troops overseas allowing them to still be provided with certain comforts.

Our Association is one of 900 in New Zealand and we have contributed to raising nearly £5 million nationwide. This money also contributes to war-affected areas such as Belgium and France. I have put all my emotions into helping fund raise, as I believe this is the best way I can possibly help my husband while he is away. Other women with less duties at home have been able to go overseas and provide their services in roles such as nurses. My friend Annie Jones left to Gallipoli to fulfill her nurses role and play her part in servicing our country. I do hope she makes it home alright.

I still continue to provide and look after our family and home, yet gain some social stability from wives who are in similar positions to me in our fundraising group. We hope we are helping, even if its a little; not all of us have been able to participate as fully as our brave Annie, but we are trying our best. We are all waiting for our husbands to return to us and our families.

Ministry for Culture and Heritage. (1914).Women fundraising for Belgium, First World War. Retrieved from
Credit: Collection Toitu Otago Settlers Musem

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