The First Lady Visits Ford

In August 1943 Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States, visited New Zealand.

She had been invited by Prime Minster Peter Fraser and was here to meet with United States forces and staff of the American Red Cross, and to see the contribution of New Zealand women to the war effort.

Her itinerary included Lower Hutt, where on 30 August she met with women employees in the Ford factory at Seaview and at the Dominion Physical Laboratory at Gracefield.

Eleanor Roosevelt at the Ford Factory in Seaview, 30 August 1943. Hutt City Libraries Collection.
ep31 august 1943
Evening Post, 30 August 1943. Papers Past.

The Ford Factory began production in 1936 with cars assembled from imported parts. During the Second World War, the building was also used to manufacture munitions, explosives and army Jeeps.

From “This is where we work” (Ford Motor Company of NZ, 1944?). Petone Settlers Museum Collection.
From “This is where we work” (Ford Motor Company of NZ, 1944?). Petone Settlers Museum Collection.

In the 1980s Ford consolidated its operations at Wiri in South Auckland and closed the Seaview plant in 1988.

The building is still there and is listed as a category 2 historic place by Heritage New Zealand.

Want to discover more about Ford in Lower Hutt? The pop-up exhibition Assembling the Ford Story featuring three vintage Ford cars is on from 22-31 May 2019 on the Corner of Andrews Avenue and High Street, Lower Hutt.

There’s also a special speaker series on at the Te Wā Heke Festival from 24-25 May 2019 at the Lower Hutt Events Centre.


  1. Our mother was one of the many who worked there. She often spoke of the friendships made. A highlight for her was the visit of Eleanor Roosevelt

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