Hutt Valley women were among the New Zealand women recruited for the war effort during world war 2. In January 1942 the New Zealand Government passed legislation so it could direct men and women into work of national importance. Initially women aged 20 and 21 were ‘manpowered’. But by January 1944 women between the ages of 18 and 40 were also included. Women with children were exempt. Men aged up to 70 who had experience in building, construction, metal trades or engineering could also be ‘manpowered’.
Women joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs), Women’s Airforce Auxiliary (WAAFs), or they could choose to either work in factories or work on farms as ‘land girls’. Food, clothing and munitions industries were most in need of women workers. Women living in the Hutt Valley signed up for work and women came to the Hutt Valley from other areas to work in essential industries.
Women’s organisations such as the Townswomen’s Guilds worked together with the Women’s War Service Auxiliary. Street days and picnics were held in Lower Hutt by the guilds supporting the war effort.
Newspapers such as the Hutt News were full of advertisements for women wanted for essential war work. Hutt Valley had many factories and industries needing women workers.
In Hutt Valley the Dominion Physical Laboratory in Gracefield was one place where women worked in the ‘war effort’.
In some cases whole businesses became essential war work places , such as Petone Steam Laundry in 1942.
Another industry where many women worked was the Ford Factory in Lower Hutt. Women were ‘manpowered’ to munitions making. There was a shortage of accommodation and local residents were asked to provide accommodation for women and girls from outside the area. See also Hutt Heritage Blog post ‘First Lady visits Ford’ https://heritage.huttcitylibraries.co.nz/2019/05/16/the-first-lady-visits-ford/
Accommodation for women war workers in essential industries was difficult to find, particularly in heavily industrialised Hutt Valley. This was the impetus to build accommodation and the first hostel for war workers was built in 1943 in Hawkins Street, Woburn, Lower Hutt. It accommodated 360 girls. (Men were housed in Defence Workers’ Camps).
Lady Newall, the Governor General’s wife, opened the Hostel in 1943.
After the war the National Service Department became the National Employment Service. In March 1946 there were still 264 women accommodated at the Woburn Hostel. The YWCA continued running the hostel until its’ closure.
NZ Electronic Text Centre, Victoria University of Wellington – ‘War Economy’ http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-WH2Econ.html
Te Papa Collections https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/592702
Papers past, NZ National Library https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/
Hutt City Libraries Heritage collection Hutt City Libraries heritage collection
Federated Farmers NZ, 2018 Anzac Day tribute Land girls of NZ