Māori women in the Great World Wars

By Maiki Sherman
Taina Hoia Tangaere McGregor discusses role Māori women played during war time - Photo / file

We’ve heard the stories about our brave men heading over to battle in the Great World Wars but what about the stories of our women?

Today our reporter Maiki Sherman sits down with kuia Taina Hoia Tangaere McGregor to discuss the role Māori women played during war time.

Taina McGregor is an Oral Historian, Māori, at the Alexander Turnbull Library and completed her thesis on the role of women before, during, and after war.

She says during the First World War not many women knew exactly what was needed of them, however, during World War II they were much more aware having already had their first experience in war time.

During the First World War women made woollen coats, cow skin boots, and sent them over to soldiers via steamships as well as benzene (oil) and meat.

During the Second World War is when she says parcels were introduced.

She also says during war time Māori women were very much involved in nursing roles, driving military officers, and stepping into farming roles back home with their men overseas.

Taina McGregor says many women married before their men left for war, a lot of them just out of high school, and given the limited contraception in those days, women often fell pregnant and were left to raise the children alone.

To hear more from Taina McGregor’s interview, tune in to Te Kaea at 5:30pm with live subtitles.