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The Women of New Zealand

3 — The Early Home-Makers

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The Early Home-Makers

Arrived in New Zealand the women found themselves in circumstances which varied according to the place in which they, or their husbands, brothers, or parents, decided to settle; but in no case were these circumstances easy. The earliest settlement under the New Zealand Company was at Port Nicholson, and the first shipload of settlers arrived in the harbour, as we have seen, on 22 January 1840. Although two of the Company's ships had preceded them, the Tory, with Colonel Wakefield in charge of a preliminary expedition to arrange land purchases, and the Cuba, carrying the survey staff, nothing was prepared for the new arrivals. The surveyors had indeed arrived only between two and three weeks before them. The women, of whom there were about forty, remained therefore on the ship for a time, while the men went ashore every day to work for the Company—the only employer, of course, at this stage, when no land had been allotted and no settlement likely to be page 68permanent could be made—and to make what arrangements they could for the reception of their families. When these were finally landed it was on a small jetty run out from the Petone beach. Their first dwellings, most of them close to the beach, were either tents, or huts put up for them by the Maoris. Conditions at first were necessarily primitive, and more than one of these earliest arrivals speaks of the 'gypsy life' she was leading, and enjoying, with her family. Like the first women in the Bay of Islands a quarter of a century before, they did their cooking out of doors, 'over wood fires, laid upon the ground.' They did their washing in the Hutt river, and in all probability this seemed luxurious enough after the difficulties of ship-board laundering. Soon more ships arrived, and in due time landed their passengers, and within three months the little settlement contained over a thousand men, women and children. Tents ran short, whares could not be quickly enough put up, and some curious makeshifts were seen. One young man and his wife, with their friends, spent several weeks in a shelter made from an upturned jolly boat lent by their ship, with 'an old sail, some canvas, blocks of wood and a spar or two.' It 'rained tremendously' for days after they landed; and even those in tents and whares were little better off for protection against such weather. 'I sat three hours,' one man wrote to his family, 'with an umbrella over Mrs Pierce, after which we rolled our-page 69selves in our blankets and slept soundly.' 'I am very well contented,' said another, the owner of a tent more substantial than most, 'that I have not yet been obliged to sleep with an umbrella over my head, as most others have done.'

There may have been some faint hearts among them; but they seem on the whole to have been able to regard their troubles lightly. 'It was,' the young bride of the upturned boat remarked quietly, 'a long journey to make just to see some rain.' At first through those summer months it was a prolonged and magnified picnic, and apart from the rain most things pleased them, and the prospects seemed delightful. Even the rain, they felt, did them no real harm. 'The climate is so fine that everybody laughs at such things,' he wrote who possessed that superior tent; and even the Pierces, who when they tired of the umbrella, rolled themselves in their blankets 'and slept soundly,' were next morning 'as gay as possible,' and 'felt no cold.' 'People,' the husband added in his early optimism, 'do not take colds as in England.' Many perhaps had come from crowded city areas, and they thought themselves now in paradise. Harbour, hills and bush were beautiful to them beyond conception—that bush, musical with streams and with the song of tuis and of innumerable pigeons, still in those days gay with bright-winged parakeets, and possessing then as now its own exquisite and incomparable scent.

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Food was abundant and very cheap. Letters from the earliest arrivals remark on the quantities offish of various kinds, on the pigeons 'twice as large as our English ones,' the pork, the potatoes, Indian corn and native greens—'a piece of pigtail tobacco weighing 1 oz, value 3d, brings a basket of potatoes weighing about 30 lbs, including the basket, made of flax.' 'One native offered us a very large pig, nearly 10 stone, for a large shark-hook, worth a shilling, but we disdained to take advantage of them; they afterwards sold their pig for 2 shirts.' 'On Saturday I gave 3 yards of calico for a pig, 40 lbs weight.' 'Pigs, potatoes, fish, vegetables, and pigeons abound here, and the necessaries of life can be had for a mere trifle; if you lend your gun to a chief he will return in the evening laden with game.' It was good fare after the monotonous months of ship's food.

'Glorious' climate, plentiful food, and beauty all about them, living in those first days a simple life of freedom and extraordinary interest, they improved daily in health and were happy. 'My wife and child are happier than ever they were in their lives,' wrote a proud husband and father, 'Little Catherine is growing stout and healthy,' and 'as tall as a poplar.' 'I have been more healthy since I came here,' a woman told her parents, 'than ever I was in my life before.' They were beginning to find the truth of the promise that had been made them: 'The British page 71fair may rely that England's rose will not fail to blossom in New Zealand in all its natural richness, giving the unmatched tinge of the flower…. The danger is that it may even throw that of the mother country into the shade.' 'The climate,' wrote another colonist, 'is fine and healthy, and I now enjoy better health than I ever did in my life.' 'Do not persuade medical men to come, for, unless they become farmers, they will be unoccupied.' Save, however, in one branch of their work: as a doctor himself wrote, '… medical men, though they will not have much to do in the way of sickness, will still find their hands well employed in bringing young ones into the world.'

Some of the women were terrified at their first sight of the Maoris and at their wild welcome. One of them wrote to her mother-in-law a few days after her arrival by the first ship, 'I shall like the country very well. It is a complete paradise … but I shall always be in dread of the natives; they are very harmless, but I don't think I can make myself happy. We shall have the missionaries amongst us very soon; then we shall be comfortable—I hope we shall.' She, poor woman, had another reason, however, for being cast down, for her little boy had died at sea (the only death among the Aurora's 148 passengers); and although he had been consumptive, and she had been told by the doctor that he could not have lived six months on shore, it was natural page 72that her distress of mind should be renewed in writing of his death, and a shadow partially obscure the radiance of the new day. Others were quickly filled with admiration and affection for the friendly people among whom they found themselves. 'The natives are exceedingly well disposed,' wrote one, '… They are perfect models of the human species, and really are a splendid and superior race. They are intelligent, generous, faithful, open, and brave, and they will not brook an insult; they are honest, very honest, and will, if you treat them properly, do you many little favours.'

Their little native-built houses too, despite their weather-resisting deficiencies, pleased and interested them enormously. A few of the more prosperous had brought out with them the 'Portable Colonial Cottages' which figure largely in the advertisement columns of early numbers of the New Zealand Journal. According to the makers these, 'panelled throughout, painted inside and outside, with doors and fastenings, glazed folding windows, floors, joists and roofing complete,' could be 'removed from one station to another, struck and erected again in a few hours.' It sounds well, and those who had been able to afford them were probably the envy of their fellow passengers. Actual experience, however, brought other feelings. 'It has been a source of great vexation and expense to me,' wrote a disappointed owner. 'The original cost of the house, page 73and the putting it up, will stand me in little less than £200, whereas I expect if I am compelled to take it down the materials will not yield more than £40 at the outside.' As for the assertion about the ease and speed with which the houses could be erected, it is 'perfectly absurd. Several parties … have found that it requires the labour of three or four carpenters for three or four weeks at least to erect them properly—besides the necessity of purchasing extra timber, building chimneys etc., to make them at all comfortable.' The Maoris, on the other hand, one of the women told her friends, 'build beautiful houses. Major Baker and several others have had very nice ones built, consisting of four rooms each, for which they pay four blankets…. Do not think of bringing a house,' though, she adds, 'the window frames, doors, bolts, bars etc., may be of use.' 'We all prefer them [the Maori whares]', yet another reported, 'to the trumpery wooden houses made in England.'

Free or assisted passages had been granted by the New Zealand Company to certain classes of 'actual labourers', between the ages of fifteen and thirty, 'going out to work for wages in the colony', preference being given to married men accompanied by their wives. Single men and single women were also given passages on specified conditions. The men must be 'accompanied by one or more adult sisters', the women 'under the protection of their parents, or near relatives, or under actual engagement as page 74servants to ladies going out as cabin passengers on the same vessel.' The young women encouraged by receiving preference were 'those accustomed to farm and dairy work … sempstresses, strawplatters, and domestic servants.' It was the Company's declared policy to keep the proportions of the sexes as nearly as possible equal; but notwithstanding this, of those, including cabin passengers, who came out during the first three months of the settlement, the men outnumbered the women by almost three to two. It is, of course, impossible to say how many of the women were single—Very few', one of the earliest arrivals states in a letter home. But as she adds, 'we have one or two weddings every Sunday,' it would seem that there must really have been a considerable number. Wives were in demand. One young Scottish woman regretted that she 'happened to marry' before leaving for the colony, 'as she might have got an independent gentleman here.' 'Inquire for Mary Miller,' the same writer says, 'tell her to come out, and not to marry in Scotland…. Let all my friends know that have female families, as it will be a fine place for them.' It was a land of opportunity for men and women alike; but thus early was the 'servant problem' created in New Zealand.

For months the definite settlement and formation of the town were held up, those responsible shillyshallying even as to the best site. Petone had originally been chosen partly because of the larger area of level page 75ground to be found there, with the fertile Hutt valley, to provide the rural sections of the land purchasers, in convenient proximity. When at last Colonel Wakefield consented to the change of site, the town had still to be surveyed; and although this (1100 town sections of one acre each) was completed by the middle of August, it was not until October that the move was begun, and still the 1100 rural sections were to be dealt with. Meanwhile in March each settler had been allotted temporarily twenty acres, and the picnic continued.

New Zealand was still 'like a paradise,' a paradise without the serpent. 'There are no reptiles or venomous things of any kind…. There is no corroding care.' Government, for the Port Nicholson settlers, had not begun. 'No tyranny rules in this blessed land: when it pleases us, we can take our gun or our rod in our hand, and stroll along the shores, and in the woods, and shoot as much fowl, and take as much fish as we like; no taxes are levied here to oppress us. We may say with Tell—"Blow on ye winds, This is the land of liberty".' Not that they knew no hardships. Prices began to go up— 'The natives are getting wide awake now [April]— they want money for everything; when we first came we could get a pigeon for a biscuit, and potatoes the same; but the English people have spoiled them entirely.' 'Of course,' says the same writer, a woman, 'being a new colony, we have to go short of page 76many little things, such as beer, which is 1/6 per pot, butter 2/- per lb.' Tea, states another, also writing in April, was five shillings per pound, coffee two shillings, sugar sixpence, ale and porter two shillings per bottle. Flour seems to have varied from sixpence to eightpence per pound. Pork was cheap, fourpence to sixpence; mutton, 'when there is any,' one shilling, and beef the same, but by June it was up to one and eightpence—and these prices are for meat 'by the carcase.' Clothing, a woman reported, was 'middling,' 'about half as much again as in England,' and only the strongest materials were serviceable. Boots and shoes wore out quickly, and Francis Isaac, 'the first shoemaker,' got a good price for his work, and could not cope with the demand. Housekeeping, though as yet simple, was not easy for slender purses.

For the time being, however, 'we find plenty of work.' The men were for the most part employed by the Company. At first the wage for a labourer was '£1 per week, with 10 lbs of meat … 7 lbs flour, 6 oz tea, 7 oz sugar and a superabundance of potatoes; a place to live in, and plenty of wood to burn.' A few months later a wife tells that 'the men get 30/- per week now, but they will get as much as £3 very soon, for when people get their land there is not near enough workmen.' Nor was there as yet any prejudice against the married woman who chose to work. 'As for myself,' wrote this one, 'I page 77can get as much washing and more than I can do at 4/- per dozen, taking one with another; indeed, I have been so busy since I came on shore that I have not had time to do anything for myself.' She was a woman of great spirit and enterprise. Her health had improved wonderfully, and she was ready, in spite of acknowledged hardship, for any amount of work. 'I am going to open a coffee-house,' she declares, 'and sell ready-made tea and coffee; there is no one in the colony that does it, and I think it will pay very well.' Already she and her husband 'have saved more … than ever we did before,' and 'we have bought a nice house, and about 10 acres of land … about 20 miles up the country, but we do not mean to go to live there just yet awhile. I have so much work it will not do to leave it, but still it will be there when we like.' They had given £5 for it—'it is beautifully situated at the sea-side.' No wonder spirits were high.

There were new pleasures too for the professional men. Each on his twenty acres was hard at it. 'Fustian coats and thick shoes are very fashionable, and you would laugh to see officers, doctors, and dandies— digging, thatching and chopping with great frenzy…. Economy is the order of the day; and I carpenterise, and carry logs, and cook, and go to council without detriment to my gentility.' The writer was apparently a bachelor; the wives of such men, 'officers, doctors, and dandies,' there is little page 78doubt, were equally busy, keeping their small wattle and daub or raupo houses as clean as was possible; cooking, they too, on fires out of doors, or presently learning the tricks of those temperamental camp-ovens on open fires within, learning by hard experience what it was to be colonists' wives.

They seem to have thought the summer would never end—or at least the approach of winter held no fears for them. 'In short, there is no winter,' one of them wrote in mid-March after a full fortnight's experience of this southern paradise. But it was undue optimism. Winter came. The Hutt river was in flood. One woman whose first son was born on 1 June, woke next morning to find two feet of water in the house, and soon her bed was afloat. She could not be moved, so the suggestion was made that her mattress should be 'suspended … to the rafters of the house.' To this, with probably very just suspicions of those rafters, she objected so strongly that they were obliged to leave her and the baby floating. Fortunately the river rose no higher, and with the turn of the tide began to fall. But there had been time for much cruel havoc. The belongings of many settlers had been carried away; everything that was left was thoroughly wet, and fires would not burn. Earthquakes too contributed to the discomfiture of the settlers, and although their insubstantial dwellings stood up well enough to these, they were less proof against flame, page 79and on one night of earthquakes a whole row of raupo whares was destroyed, and at a blow all the passengers of one ship were homeless. Curiously there is no mention in these very early letters (unless we may except the quotation from Tell, where the emphasis seems rather to be on 'liberty') of the winds so soon connected with the name of Wellington. Yet already in 1850 the joke was established which still in a slightly altered form passes current. 'You may know a Wellington man,' Mrs Godley wrote in that year, 'by his having always his hand on his hat.'

Flood, fire and earthquake were, however, enough. Even those to whom the 'gypsy life' had been at first so welcome a change from crowded tenement and cramped ship's quarters, must have begun to feel a doubt, and to long for a more settled way of life, and some solider shelter from the climate that seemed after all to belie its early promise. By the beginning of spring the town survey was completed and the sections chosen, and within a short time 'Britannia' had fairly come into existence. 'Direct to us at the city of Britannia, Port Nicholson, New Zealand,' a woman proudly wrote. Conditions were still of course extremely primitive; and although on 22 January 1841, Wellington's first Anniversary Day (the name had been changed in November) was celebrated with a 'Subscription Ball' at Barrett's Hotel which lasted until five-thirty next morning, page 80and was followed by a boat race and a hurdle race, an arrival in 1841 reported that, expecting to find 'something like a town,' he was disappointed that only one house, Colonel Wakefield's, was to be seen. The population was already doubled, and new colonists continued to arrive. The accommodation problem seems to have been almost as great as at the start, and this difficulty was not overcome for several years. Large raupo sheds were put up to receive the newcomers, but were quite inadequate to meet the demand. The overflow had to make the best of an empty store-house, 'over-run with rats and very dirty,' on the floor of which a space was marked off with chalk for the occupation of each family. Here with their luggage and a fortnight's rations they had to make what they could of a discouraging situation. There must have been heavy hearts at such an introduction to the land of promise. But there was worse to come. The land difficulties were not yet solved, the Government in Auckland was in financial straits, and little employment was to be had by the men—even a skilled tradesman, one of them wrote at the end of 1842, was lucky enough if he averaged two days' work a week. Food prices were up. Earthquakes were frequent; rain further depressed spirits already low; wind whipped at nerves. But earthquakes, rain and wind had to be accepted among the conditions of life in this cruelly distant land. Escape from it for the great majority page 81was out of the question. In one respect at least, however, the letters of these later emigrants repeat the story told by those of the first comers: in spite of wind, rain and earthquakes, of unemployment and high prices—in spite generally of hardships and privations now all but unimaginable, the health of the struggling little community remained good. And this thing being added unto them made all else possible. They faced their difficulties, most disastrously increased for some by the fire which, on a night of nor'west storm, destroyed some fifty of the little houses on the beach, with all the stores and the bits of furniture in them. To save anything except their lives was impossible; to do even that would-be helpers were obliged to take to the sea, standing there up to their waists, so fierce was the heat in the fanning of that Wellington gale. 'It was a magnificent sight,' said one of those who had hastened to offer help, 'but a melancholy event in its effect on our future. Bread, meat, butter, and everything we now considered necessary became very scarce and dear, and often we could get nothing to eat but potatoes and pork, and these chiefly from the Maoris.' Subscriptions were called for to provide what relief was possible for those whose all had been destroyed, and no doubt there were many who gladly gave them temporary shelter in their own fragile and crowded little homes. The loss of one was necessarily and too obviously the loss of all.

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These setbacks notwithstanding, progress was made. In what spirit they tackled things is shown by the experience of one family of which a record exists (in Chambers' Journal). Husband, wife, young son and two little daughters, one a baby in arms, they were among those who, arriving in mid-winter, had had to make shift with their bit of floor space in the dirty, rat-infested store-house. They would have returned home to England if they could. That being impossible to them, they set to work to redress their harms. It is typical of the woman, and of many another woman among the pioneers in every part of the country, that looking round that dismal store-house, with its little groups of despondent men and women and bewildered children, one of her first acts was to go out into the bush growing close to the door, and, collecting some twigs, to bind them together for a broom. It was the eternal home-maker asserting herself instinctively and in spite of the horror that the woman felt at all about her, dirt, rats, peeping tattooed faces and wild nature, so far from the familiar way; and it appealed to the home-maker in every other woman there. They followed suit, and quickly the best was made of an exceedingly bad job. Within three months this family had rented a section, sixty feet by twenty-four, at £9 a year, had built a small house, sold the major part of the linen and other household goods they had brought out for their own use, and, with wares bought page 83from incoming ships, stocked a small shop. They had learnt to value the Maoris, not only as their best customers, but for their genuine friendliness, and their tenderness with the children; and they were quickly learning their language. The husband took work besides, when he could get it. Their difficulties were not over, however, and still their main aim was to save enough to get out of the country where conditions were so different from those they had been led to expect. And so they struggled on, the wife adding to her various employments by dressmaking, when she could find time, for the Maori women. Gradually things improved. By the unyielding persistence of people such as these Wellington, and the other towns as in their turn they were formed, throve and prospered. In little more than a year after this man and his wife had landed, a year of much mental and frequent physical distress, they had begun to look upon this new country as their own; and before the end of their second year they were urging their friends to join them, and the wife was able to say, as those earlier wives had said, though prematurely, 'I have never been so happy in my life.' They had within a few years attained wealth and prosperity. Others had done likewise; and before New Zealand's first ten years as a colony were run there were probably many who would have said with them that except for 'a longing after absent friends in old England,' they had not 'a single page 84earthly wish beyond New Zealand.' Others less stout-hearted and self-reliant drifted no doubt to degradation and despair. But there can be no doubt that the majority, men and women alike, were at work of one kind or another, and that hard. On the Wellington municipal roll of 1843, admittedly an incomplete list, there were only two names whose owners professed themselves merely 'gentlemen,' and it is more than likely that they too were actually in the ranks of the manual labourers. They were perhaps the 'dandies' referred to in a letter quoted earlier, who, together with officers and doctors, were 'digging, thatching and chopping with great frenzy.' There was still work of this and a similar kind to be done. If the thatching was finished, gardens remained to be cultivated. These 'gentlemen' may have been among those who produced the 20 lb cabbages and 9 inch potatoes exhibited with just pride at the early Horticultural Shows that became a feature of the Anniversary Day celebrations.

Meanwhile other towns were being founded, and agricultural pursuits had been begun, both on the outskirts of the towns and in isolated places. Wanganui in 1840, Auckland and New Plymouth in 1841, Nelson early in 1842, Otago in 1848, and Canterbury (youngest of the Company's ventures) in 1850, each provided its special problems for the men and the women who made the brave adventure in its earliest days. Wanganui was an offshoot of the page 85Port Nicholson settlement, some of the less patient spirits, weary of the long wait occasioned by the land difficulties, deciding to ignore the prohibition and launch out on their own account. To the hardships endured by the pioneer women everywhere, were added here the anxieties and dangers of conflict with the Maoris. In the circumstances it is not surprising that the development of the little settlement was arrested. There was in 1843 a population of only 210; but by 1847, after serious native troubles and the murder of a woman and several children, this was reduced by a hundred. It may be possible to take the view that these very early Wanganui settlers had brought their troubles on themselves, that to leave the comparative shelter of Port Nicholson was foolhardy—it is easy to be wise after the event. Foolhardiness, however, has nearly always in it a generous measure of courage; and that it was needed, together with an equal power of endurance and of patient hope, by the women who shared fully here as elsewhere in the colonising labours of the men, we cannot fail to acknowledge. Need for blame is long past; reason for admiration remains and will remain always.

The first settlement in Taranaki was sponsored by the Plymouth Company of New Zealand, acting in co-operation with, and soon merged into, the New Zealand Company. The directors were quick to profit by the reports of conditions at Port Nicholson: page 86and before despatching the first large body of their colonists, they sent out a party of labourers, properly equipped, to prepare as well as they could a place for the main body, so that these might take immediate possession of their land, and find 'ample preparations for house-building and crops for the ensuing year.' The intention was excellent. They were, however, perhaps not fully aware of the initial difficulties; and the William Bryan's passengers, who arrived off the Sugar Loaves at the end of March 1841, must have had a hard first winter in their new home. When the Amelia Thompson landed her passengers on the last day of September that year, there were indeed huts and whares ready to receive them; but the town survey was not completed until 4 November, just a fortnight before the next ship arrived. The difficulties were considerable. The site was covered with high fern and scrub which hampered the work of the surveyors; while heavy timber, for bridges and more permanent houses, had to be brought some two miles. As at the end of 1841 the community possessed 'one timber-drag, two hand-carts and six wheelbarrows,' but no horses nor bullocks, so that all traction was by man-power, it can be seen that progress was necessarily slow. Many of the settlers had been unused to manual work so hard as this, but they were not deterred. In spite of alarm caused already thus early by the attitude of the Maoris, and by the disorderliness of the whalers along the coast, page break
5. A settlers hut

5. A settlers hut

page 87letters written in the early months of 1842 are full of brave hope and cheer. 'Jane' tells that she is taking in lodgers and getting fifteen shillings a week, while two of her brothers earn each thirty shillings and the third twelve. One has bought a town section, and they have clubbed together for a country one. 'Mary Ann is still living in her place with the doctor. If her father was to see her he would not know her. I should say that the wages and gifts what she gets by sewing is not less than £40 a year.' A few days later Jane's sister-in-law writes begging the father to come. The children are at school: 'it is sixpence a week for Charles, and ninepence a week for Henry.' They are living amid plenty, fine wheat and barley have been grown, 'the finest that ever you saw, very fine.' And on Christmas day, ten of the family had sat down to dinner—a cold leg of pork, new potatoes and turnips, a cold fig pudding. They have their little wants nevertheless. 'Dear father, please to bring me and Jane out a barrel of pilchards each; please to buy a gardening hook too.' She tells of the iron sand, 'and in the interior about a mile from ours there is stone with lead in it all over the place. I wish it had been in ours to have had a mine.' They are engaging letters. And there are others telling similar stories of improved health and happiness. A brother wishes his sisters to come, they 'might do well in service, for wages are very high, from £12 to £18 per year…. As for myself, I work very hard; I page 88am taking down timber and sawing it for Captain King's house; I make my wages £3 per week in sawing…. Eliza works very hard too. She is at Captain King's two or three days a week, and one day at another gentleman's house, for which she gets 2/6 a day and her meat.' 'Don't remain in Old England to starve,' writes another of these far adventurers, 'when you could do better here.' 'I would not go back to England again if I could have a free passage back again.'

It was little enough of material comfort that they had, but it was greater than they had been used to in Old England; and they were made strong by hope. If there were harder times before them they had at any rate a brief period of plenty before belts had to be tightened. Their chief cause of complaint at present was their isolation. They had no harbour, and the roadstead had already acquired a reputation for danger and treachery. They clamoured for the construction of a harbour; but in the meantime they got on with the work of settlement.

In some ways the early Aucklanders suffered more than any other of the 'first' colonists. Coming a little later, they missed the first fine careless rapture, and plunged at once, and as it happened literally, into a slough of despond. Auckland had (in 1840) been fixed as the seat of government, and had been occupied by the Governor and his household early in 1841. Its first race meeting had been held in the page 89beginning of January 1842, its first regatta, in celebration of the second anniversary of Captain Hobson's arrival as Lieutenant-Governor in the Bay of Islands, on 29 January. But when during the first weeks of October that year the first ship-loads of 'real immigrants' for Auckland arrived, the whole colony was suffering its first 'depression.' No wharf even had been built in this the capital 'city' now for well over two years. The passengers were landed in Mechanics' Bay, where, arriving at low tide, they had to make the best of their way, carrying children, boxes and bundles, through water and soft mud up to their knees. For these 343 men and women with their 192 children some twenty or thirty rough huts had been provided. A wretched prelude to several years of great privation, of unemployment and semistarvation. Auckland, destined to be in years to come New Zealand's most populous city, languished in the general stagnation; and that preliminary floundering in the mud of Mechanics' Bay may well have worn, to the eyes of the men and women of the first two ships, an air of prophetic symbolism.

In a few years they were to be joined by refugees from the Bay of Islands; but Hone Heke's war, though at first it seemed, and indeed was, a new disaster, was in part also responsible for the turn of the tide. It was still possible even in 1846 for a boy from the East Cape mission station, passing through the embryo city on his way to St. John's College at page 90Tamaki, to think 'there was not much about Auckland … to interest even a child from the backwoods. A few houses scattered here and there along the newly formed streets were all that could be seen.' Auckland's first difficulties were nevertheless over; and under the firm administration of the new Governor, inaugurated in November 1845, hope and confidence were renewed, immigration was encouraged, and the town began to fulfil the promise that its founders had seen in it.

Hard times, hunger, and the temptation to despair were not confined to any one settlement in these early forties. The first ship taking the Company's emigrants to Nelson called in January 1842 at Wellington, where one passenger noted the 'remarkable absence of hopeful, confident, steady industry.' They landed in Nelson in the following month, and the story of the birth of a New Zealand town was once more repeated—town sections not available for twelve months, rural sections for five years, rough make-shift quarters, growing uneasiness, unemployment, men and women opposing want and hardship with patient courage. The most fortunate were those who had had experience of farming in England. One of these for instance had managed to save enough from his wages from the Company to buy 'two steers and a cow calf.' With his wife's help he turned his fifty-acre swamp section to profit. All day she worked with him, driving the bullocks, cutting page 91sods for fences, clearing the flax. And when the light failed they came in, and, together again, did the cooking and housework. Soon after the Company ceased to give employment, their heifer calved. She made twelve and a quarter pounds of butter a week, and they sold twelve and kept the quarter for themselves. The following year their land produced fifty bushels of wheat to the acre. They bought the section, arranged to take more land, and bought also two more cows, two more bullocks and a few sheep. Their days of hunger, though not of hard work, were over—they had as much butter as they wanted and were able to help their neighbours. Not all had been so provident; not all, of course, had the experience which would have enabled them to be so; and those who had enough potatoes to eat, though they had literally nothing else, were considered fortunate enough. Those who had, or could get, a little flour, made of it a thin gruel; some dug up the potatoes they had planted before the final blow fell, ate them and planted the peelings; others planted the shoots only. Cooking had become horribly simplified. The women had other ways, however, of exercising their inventiveness. Sow-thistles and an occasional eel might be brought in to enliven the diet of potatoes or gruel; but clothing did not grow by the wayside and must be contrived. One mother set the fashion, quickly followed, by making a complete suit for her boy out of a three-bushel sack; page 92while one of the men, who afterwards rose to prominence in the Provincial Council, showed his ability by the 'taste and ingenuity with which he adorned the poor girls around him with fashionable and really pretty and durable bonnets made from goats' or kids' skins, fringed with the skins of the goats' short tails.'

There were those, of course, here as elsewhere, who were not dependent on the Company for their means of living; and there is no doubt that they did what was in their power to relieve the more immediate wants of these, for whom the skies had grown so dark. Charitable relief, however, was probably one of those evils they had come so far expressly to avoid—it was a poor substitute, in spite of all the tact and genuine friendliness with which it was given, for the secure independence they had been promised.

Of the other main settlements it may be said that the members of the Otago contingent were unfortunate in that they arrived, those in the John Wickliffe towards the end of March, those in the Philip Laing about three weeks later in mid-April, at the beginning of a very severe winter; and that the Canterbury 'Pilgrims' were blessed beyond any of the earlier settlers, of whose experience advantage had been taken for their benefit by the Canterbury Association.

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One of the earliest arrivals in Otago declares that for 'nearly two months' after they landed 'they were subjected … to one continued downpour of rain.' In these circumstances the usual initial difficulty of accommodation was aggravated; and the women and children were obliged to endure a further period of confinement in their cribbed quarters on the little ships. With any slight lift in the weather they wearily paced the decks, looking to the drenched and saturated shores where the men were at least occupied, though with hard and for most of them unaccustomed work, building in the mud the small raupo huts that here too were the first form of domestic architecture. Somehow from the thickest of the bush they collected enough wood not soaked beyond hope, the women and children came ashore and housekeeping began, though for some time meals could be cooked only if umbrellas were held over the 'kitchen' fires. A further addition had been made to the ranks of the women of New Zealand.

The Canterbury settlers, as has been said, were more fortunate. Not only did they arrive at the height of summer, when the weather was 'delicious', fine and warm; but there was a jetty, there were two hotels, a good road. Moreover, there were 'immigration barracks' of a more substantial build than those even who came comparatively late to the Wellington settlement, for instance, had found. Godley speaks of them indeed as 'four excellent houses… with a cook-house page 94in the centre'; and although they were described afterwards by one of the 'pilgrims' who came out as a boy as 'four small huts,' his remembrance of them is likely to have been affected by the standard of fifty years later, and we may trust Godley's estimate of them as 'excellent' as New Zealand houses went in 1850. There is besides Mrs Godley's evidence. Describing 'the grand ball' held in the following February, she speaks of it as taking place in one of the barrack buildings, 'composed of four rooms,' each about thirty by fourteen. They were palatial. But not all the pilgrims could find house-room. Three of the four ships arrived within twenty-four hours, and the fourth eleven days later, and accommodation in the 'barracks' had to be rationed. A fortnight was the time limit set for each family, and those who were not lucky enough to be 'in' had to make what arrangements they could. Many of them began at once to build. 'Our house was finished,' one wrote, 'in six days from the time we began it. Now we are exceedingly comfortable.' It was comparative comfort only, for the occasional summer rain quickly converted the hastily erected walls and roof into a series of small shower-baths. But to these people who had been so long used to 'the salt-water drip over all our things in the cabin,' a little fresh water was no hardship. Another family rented a lean-to room 'about 10 × 10, with an earthen floor which had been excavated to give standing room.' Timber, page 95of course, had to be brought from a distance, and excavation was an economy. But £1 per week seems a high rent to have been charged for such a lodging. In the sou' west storm that broke upon them before a more permanent building could be put up, the rain filled the excavated part, and the woman and the children 'had to camp on the iron bedstead until the water was drained off.' It may have been during this storm that an umbrella, so indispensable a piece of the colonist's equipment as it had already proved in divers places, was once again called into commission, this time to protect a young mother who had landed only the day before and now, in torrential rain against which the tent lent to her by a kindly settler proved inadequate, gave birth to a daughter.

Most of the women accepted the position at least with outward cheerfulness. But there were two of whom it is told that they exercised their considerable native ingenuity to circumvent the Company's Agent and his regulation. The unfortunate man came several times to the barracks in an attempt to evict a family whose fortnight was run. But the lady was too much for him. On his last visit he received a message from her saying 'she had let down her back hair and gone to bed, and did not mean to get up again.' Another, for whom, with her family, he was unable to provide accommodation, threatened to dig a hole in the side of the hill and camp out; 'and,' she added, 'I'll write a letter to the page 96 Canterbury Papers,' (published in London for the information of intending colonists), 'and say we were obliged to sleep on the side of the hill.' The Agent found a room. Neither perhaps can command whole-hearted admiration; they showed at least determination and resourcefulness—qualities in themselves wholly admirable, essential indeed in the New Zealand women of that day.

Comparatively easy as the Canterbury settlers found things, they nevertheless had their peculiar difficulties. The town site had been surveyed; but access to it was not easy. The 'good road' (to Sumner) was far from completed, and all heavy baggage must be taken round by sea and up the river as far as possible. Men, women and children had to climb the bridle track, a steep pinch, the only way over the hill; and they were lucky who could hire or borrow a horse to pack their more immediate needs. One woman indeed, elderly and something plump, found a further use for such a horse: she held to his tail, and he proved quiet and obliging. Few of the younger ones probably would have had a hand to spare. There were bundles to be carried, in many instances there was a child in arms, always there were long and voluminous skirts and petticoats to be managed. When they paused at the top for breath, their future home lay before them—a yellow waste of tussock land, with scattered groups of cabbage-trees and three clumps of bush, not very attractive, we may suppose, page 97to eyes used to the green orderliness of England. When they reached the foot of the hills and were ferried across the Heathcote, they may well have found the prospect even less attractive. Seven miles of rough swampy ground lay between them and Christchurch; and Christchurch itself, when at last, tired and bedraggled in those terrible skirts, they reached it, was not a sight to cheer drooping spirits. 'There was nothing to be seen' one of them told her daughter in later years, 'but the Land Office, a large tent … a large expanse of plain, dotted here and there with Ti palms, quantities of tutu and fern, gullies, creeks and swamps all around, and nothing but a narrow track to guide us.'

In most other parts of New Zealand the Maori whare or raupo hut was the first shelter, apart from the tent, provided for the settler. In Canterbury there were few Maoris, and V-huts became for the time being generally fashionable. 'A V-hut,' a 'first' woman settler wrote, 'is exactly as if you took the roof off a house, and stood it on the ground. You can only stand upright in the middle.' But it served, and many a Canterbury woman had her first experience of really responsible housekeeping in one of these edifices. Sod huts with raupo thatch were also the thing; and a few of these early dwellings remained, having weathered the years in varying states of dilapidation, until comparatively recently.

But the members of the official 'Canterbury page 98Settlement' were not actually the first white inhabitants of the province. As early as 1837 a shore whaling station had been set up at Peraki, one of the many bays of Banks Peninsula, by George Hempleman. In the little settlement there were altogether thirty white men and one white woman, Mrs Hempleman. They prospered, but in the teeth of great dangers and difficulties. The men no doubt were used to a rough life; but Mrs Hempleman was an English girl, from Sydney, and the isolation, as well as the roughness, of the life, with the additional anxiety caused by the war not yet over between the northern and the southern Maori, must have borne hardly upon her. For some time after landing (in March) they slept in casks, their work on their houses being much delayed by the claims upon their time of whales and trying-works. In the end the Hemplemans' own house was one of sawn timber brought from Queen Charlotte Sound, where they had called en route from Sydney. This was the earliest white settlement in Canterbury, though many of the bays on the Peninsula were visited by whalers who called for water, pigeons and a spell. Before long, however, more settlers came—the French and a few Germans, all told about sixty men, women and children, to Akaroa in 1840, and within a few years there were little homesteads in several of the bays—in Red House Bay, in Pigeon Bay, in Flea Bay, at Purau. And when the Canterbury Pilgrims arrived it was no page 99small encouragement to them to find a well-established home at Riccarton, and to see how much had been done in seven short years to convert a wilderness to smiling plenty. The earliest attempt to settle here had been made in 1840, when a Sydney firm had sent their agent and two other men, one of whom had wife and child with him, and two teams of bullocks, to this particular part of the great plain. The ship that followed them with farm labourers, implements and stores was, however, lost at sea with all she carried, and the attempt was then abandoned. The agent and one man returned to Sydney; but the other, with his wife and child, remained. But not for long. The attitude of the Maoris became too threatening, and the little family made their way on foot to Lake Forsyth, a distance of about thirty miles. There were, of course, no roads. The man drove his four bullocks loose before him, and carried a table on his head. His wife carried the year-old girl, and her food ration for the day was one potato. They camped that night at the lake, and went on next day by whale-boat to Akaroa, to seek the protection of the French settlers. The cattle were driven overland. It was their lonely state that had made Riccarton unsafe for them. When the next settlers came in 1843, there were four men, two women and six children, and they appear to have found nothing to fear from the natives. They lived at first in tents; but they had brought timber with them from page 100Wellington, and soon had a house up, using wooden pegs in place of the nails which they had accidentally left behind. It had three rooms—one for each of the married men, with his wife and three children, one for the two unmarried brothers which served also as a common sitting room. Like many other families in New Zealand, the brothers called their new home by the name of the old one they had left, 12,000 miles away and more.

It was a strange, hard life for those women, almost as isolated as that of the missionary women in the north. Almost more difficult was the life of the Peninsula women. The two families who settled in Pigeon Bay in 1843 lived together, fifteen all told, for the first three months in a large divided tent. They had brought with them from Wellington, where they had at last tired of waiting for the land they had bought before coming to New Zealand, two cows and a calf, some goats and a few fowls— also presumably a first stock of provisions, for there was nowhere to procure them on their arrival. The French at Akaroa, indeed, with the sprinkling of Germans, were by now fairly established, an 'industrious, law-abiding, kind and hospitable' little community, each on his little plot of about five acres growing excellent fruit and vegetables. But Akaroa was sixteen miles distant, over steep hills covered with virgin bush. When the schooner in which they had made the trip from Wellington was sold for ten page 101head of cattle, it took eight men three weeks to widen the track in order to get them through to the Bay. Obviously this was not the place to go for immediately needed provisions, even supposing it could have supplied them. Actually the Akaroa settlers, with those in the bays, were dependent for supplies such as flour, sugar and tea, on the visiting whalers.

The tent at Pigeon Bay was exchanged as soon as possible for houses 'of thatch work' with clay flooring, which did duty for three years, when the first timber house was built, all the work being done, of course, by the pioneer families themselves with help from the Maoris. The Maoris had at first welcomed the white people with much friendliness. When the news of the Wairau trouble filtered through, however, they became restless, and much tact was needed to maintain these friendly relations.

The men cleared the bush, cut tracks, built their houses and stock-yards, cared for the few precious cattle, built another boat. And the women? They made their candles, their soap, bread, and butter and, as soon as some sort of appliances could be contrived, cheese. In one family the girls made their own shoes—they must, or go without. The families grew in number and stature, and clothes had to be provided. In this they could not be over particular; neatness and cleanliness alone could be the aim. Butter and cheese were both made for sale as soon page 102as this became possible through the increase of the herd.

The arrival of whalers in the bays was an occasion for much excitement. They carried no money, but they brought stores—flour, sugar, tea, tobacco, some of them brought furniture, clocks, and readymade clothes; and these they exchanged for cheese, butter, fresh fruit and vegetables. There were occasionally as many as a dozen ships in the Akaroa harbour at a time to refit, and even the smaller bays had their seven or eight. But there might be long periods when there would be none, and provisions at times ran short. After a few years the settlers began to grow a little wheat for themselves, but it was long before any mills were established on the Peninsula, and grinding by hand in 'a small contrivance resembling a coffee mill' was a slow business. If flour were wanting, however, it had to be done, and it provided a job for wet weather and the evenings, when it was not possible to be out of doors. When tea was running low they eked it out by mixing with it dried bidi-bidi; and if no whaler appeared in time with new stocks, they used bidi-bidi alone or the young shoots of manuka. Like the earliest settlers everywhere in New Zealand, for meat they had pork and wild pigeons, with occasional duck, and of course fish. But the few cattle were increasing, and before many years it was possible to obtain, a welcome change, fresh beef. The first page 103steer killed fetched two and sixpence a pound, and every pound was sold, and would have been sold if the price had been higher.

It was a day of intense joy and thanksgiving to the settlers living in such isolation when they saw the first of the Canterbury Association's ships sail past the head of the harbour. The women must have rejoiced at least as much as the men. Here was the promise that the far land they had chosen as their home and had learned to love was to be enriched by the labour of more men and women of their own race, here was the hope of new companionship; and here, though they perhaps did not count it, was the possibility of release from much of the drudgery of day to day. Actually that drudgery was for several years increased by the event; the new colonists wandered about the country, looking for land or for work, there were no accommodation houses, and it fell to the lot of earlier settlers to find them food and lodging. This they did most ungrudgingly, sharing maybe their last few ounces of tea, or the last loaf possible until the next ship should be in harbour, with eight, ten or up to twenty complete strangers. They would arrive, perhaps late at night, wet through; and beds must be provided as well as food, and their clothes dried. An already overworked woman might have been excused for murmuring at fate; these women seem to have felt all the extra labour repaid by the delight of this new kind of page 104experience—faces from the outside world, news of communities larger than their own, a sense perhaps of their own place in the nation beginning now to be a lusty youngster.

There were in addition little isolated settlements in various parts of the country from north to south. In 1843 and 1844, for example, Edward Shortland, travelling in the government service, visited many places on the east coast of the south island; and in his journal noted his astonishment, on arriving at Waikouaiti, to hear the sound of a piano, and to find there a white man, with his wife and family, carrying on 'farming operations on a more extensive scale than, perhaps, any other individual in New Zealand.' At Jacob's River too on Foveaux Strait, he found a little group of white-washed cottages, near them 'green enclosures of corn and potatoes,' which had to his eyes 'the most smiling and refreshing aspect imaginable,' a community of forty-eight persons—twenty white men, one white and thirteen native women, two white and twelve half-caste children. Some of the early whalers too had brought their wives with them; but they were in the main only birds of passage, staying with very few exceptions not longer than two or three years.

Pioneering did not end with the establishment of the Company's towns. Nor was it confined to the town districts. Until nearly the end of the century new country was constantly being opened up, little page 105parties of men and women were pushing their way through every kind of obstacle further and further into the back country. Life in the infant towns was hard and primitive enough, cut off as they were from one another and from the outside world. The women in the towns, though their lives were of necessity lives of greater physical hardship than any woman in New Zealand, even in such backblocks as remain, is now obliged to lead or does lead, had nevertheless benefits incidental to membership of a larger community which the country women lacked. Their numbers grew comparatively rapidly; social diversions became possible, were indeed possible from the beginning; shops quickly made their appearance, though no doubt for a time with very limited stocks; medical services were obtainable; newspapers were circulated; libraries were formed; mails, though irregular and slow, were received and despatched with comparative frequency.

But can we at all adequately picture the life of the women, small settlers' wives, whose lot was cast in some country district away from any of the main settlements? It really does not seem possible. Its broad outlines were perhaps the same as those of the average married woman's life in New Zealand to-day—home-making and tending, the bearing and rearing of children, with all that these things involve—but the details were so different that imagination is baffled at every turn.

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From the various ports they made their way—by bullock dray or unsprung waggon, occasionally on horse-back, sometimes on foot, camping as they could when night overtook them, to the homes that had been prepared for them by the men who had gone on ahead. The last part of an always trying journey would be through bush, perhaps, over a narrow foot track from which the thickest of the undergrowth alone had been cleared, across creeks where a log must serve as bridge, through swamps in which every step brought terror to the tired woman, often burdened with a baby and her share of stores as well, or across rough, roadless tussock, an unrelieved wilderness.

The homes to which they came were, where timber was available, rough slab huts, roofs of raupo thatch, windows 'glazed' with calico, floors of beaten clay, chimneys of clay, perhaps on a supplejack frame, open fire-places where frequently damp logs needed constant attention, heavy iron kettles and pots, camp ovens; for furniture—boxes at first as tables and chairs, and bedsteads made of saplings to take the feather beds brought across the world, or the mattresses they made from dried fern and raupo, pillows in time from the feathers of the pigeons and kakas that, with wild pork, were their main meat diet. Where timber was scarce, as on the Canterbury plains, the hut was of cob or of sods, delightful when new, but apt as time went on and page break
6. Reconstruction of a Cob House Kitchen

6. Reconstruction of a Cob House Kitchen

page 107even when protected by slabs, to spread with every wind that blew a half-inch coating of dust over food, furniture and floors. Even so sparsely furnished they would be crowded enough for a man and his wife, and many of them brought children. And how, in the primitive conditions, were they to be kept clean? The earthen floors were swept with brooms home-fashioned from the bush or scrub near by. When the men could afford time to lay wooden floorings, these were scoured with ashes. So, when such luxuries were added, were the tables.

Water for all purposes had, of course, to be carried, sometimes from a considerable distance. One woman with a young baby, for instance, had a mile and a half to walk for water. She dared not leave the baby alone, so she carried him on her back, the tins for water in her hands, climbing a steep terrace from the river as she returned with her full load. Water so hardly gained was naturally carefully husbanded. She set aside as much as was needed for cooking and drinking; the remainder had to perform many offices—the dairy utensils had it in its purest state, the baby came next; and after his bath it was used to wash the clothes, then the dishes, then the floors, before finally it was given to the pigs.

In the bush country fuel was plentiful, though sometimes its dampness must have added a heavy load to the day's work. But there were women living not only in the bush. One of these, for example, in page 108Canterbury, had nothing for a whole year but wheat-straw with which to do all her cooking; and blubber was the sole resource of another, at a shore whaling station on the Peninsula. The diet certainly was simple, at first mainly meat—pigeons and kakas, wild pork and in some later settlements beef from wild cattle—and bread. It sounds well enough; but it grew monotonous; and it had drawbacks other than its monotony. Wild pork, for example, was excellent, and more digestible than the dairy-fed pork of England; but in the circumstances it was hardly possible to scald the pig, the hair had to be singed off; and the meat is said to have been strongly flavoured with burnt hair. Bread-making also presented its difficulties. The yeast made, the sponge set, risen and ready for baking—and none of these processes as easy, in those cramped and draughty little huts, as they are for the few backblocks women to-day who must still make their own bread—there was still the camp-oven to be reckoned with. If the floor were of clay, it was the practice to heat a patch of it, either by laying hot iron on it, or by building a fire and then raking it off. The dough was then placed on the heated patch, an iron pot over it, and the hot embers over the pot. But if the floor were a wooden one, the camp-oven had to go on the fire. To prepare and keep it at the right heat, with glowing embers under it and on the lid, was a matter that required experience, often heart-breaking page 109enough. Its ways once mastered, the camp-oven was a most admirable medium; but many are the stories handed down from New Zealand's first housewives of frantic dinner hours, with pigeons charred to cinders, or pork raw as it was brought from the bush.

Washing-day must have presented to the bushblock woman difficulties which would seem to us in these easier days all but insuperable. If it were possible, she would do the work close to her water supply, her little spring or stream, with an open fire for the boiling. In bush country, however, fires in the open held special dangers. As it was, where bush was being burnt off, settlers had to be prepared for sudden flight, sleeping sometimes for weeks at a time in their clothes, the bits of furniture buried, the more easily movable possessions packed in readiness for hurried flitting. The washing fire would need constant and careful watching. The soap the early housewife used was of her own manufacture, lye having been made from the wood ashes to take the place of soda. Some might have irons which could be heated in the wood fire; some used flat stones as a substitute, though how they handled them is not explained; many families would no doubt be content, perforce, with linen rough-dried.

Some of the younger women and girls worked with the men, cutting scrub and clearing the land, even in some instances helping with the bush-falling; page 110nearly all had the digging to do for potato and other vegetable crops; nearly all had at least to help with the milking. As much of the milk as could possibly be spared would be set, the cream skimmed and made into butter; and with the butter the women trudged, sometimes for five or six or more miles—they counted themselves lucky if they occasionally had a bullock to ride—to the nearest store, there exchanging their butter for goods, at the rate of threepence-halfpenny to fourpence a pound.

Clothes in all the circumstances wore out with disastrous rapidity; and at the end of a day's hard labour the women sat down to sew. In many districts the only light was a slush lamp—'a piece of rag wound round a stick and set upright in a pannikin of fat, mostly from the frying pan.' Sometimes in parts where wild pigs and cattle were to be had, or when the flock of sheep was large enough to warrant it, they used the fat to make candles. In more favoured districts tallow candles from Sydney could be bought; but most women had to make their own, and some may have preferred to do so. From all accounts the home-made candles can have been little if any worse than those from Sydney, which had to be carefully watched 'or they guttered and ran the vile-smelling stuff over the table.' Frequent snuffing was an absolute necessity; 'otherwise the candles gave off an evil-smelling smoke and very little light.' Sewing and mending, however, had to page 111be done, and knitting, sometimes with wool which they had themselves washed, carded and spun. There are parts of New Zealand still in which mosquitoes are a source of unutterable misery. In these early days, when only a small part of the bush had been cleared, it was sometimes almost impossible to burn a light. Only by keeping the rooms full of smoke from smouldering dry cow-dung could any relief be had. This 'if dense enough, kept the mosquitoes off, and it was not so painful to the eyes as wood smoke.' But it can hardly have been an atmosphere conducive to industry.

There were of course no matches as we know them. If fire, lamp or candle were to be lighted, the tinder-box was brought into requisition. The tinder was burnt linen rag, 'kept in a little tin box, and with it a small piece of steel and flint.' A spark was struck with steel and flint on to the tinder. When the tinder was alight, a 'match,' a small slip of wood the point of which had been dipped in melted sulphur, was applied to it, and when it was burnt to the end of the sulphur 'you had a light if the tinder was good.' Good tinder or bad, it sounds but a poor cumbersome method, and, especially in an emergency such as sudden sickness, or for the mother with a small child needing attention in the night, one that does not recommend itself to our modern imagination.

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Many of these women had been used, in the homes they had left, to work nearly as hard; and to conditions not very much less primitive than those in which they had to live at first in New Zealand. But there were others to whom this kind of life was completely new, who had been used to large comfortable houses with an adequate staff for their management, and an existence of leisure and refinement. They came now to homes few of them much better, many of them no better, than those we have been considering. And they worked of necessity as hard as those who had come from humbler homes and been accustomed to a life of toil. Many of them came from cities, and were plunged without pause into all the multifarious employments of farm life in rough, unsettled country, where the land had still to be won from the bush, and conditions were inevitably primitive. They tackled the new life, however, with a kind of proud glee. 'The worst part of the life for me,' one of these women wrote to her friends, 'is that it makes me so fearfully conceited. I am so proud at finding how easy it is to be independent. My mother talks about not being able to bear my being a slave, but I feel myself less a slave now that I see I can do everything for myself than I ever did before.' This young woman was one of a household of twelve—nine men, and the wife of one of these, whose first baby was born a fortnight after her arrival; besides her mother and herself. page 113The house was one of the more successful ones that had been brought from England. 'The house is very comfortable, indeed quite first rate, but then it was only adapted for the accommodation of five people, with a fair proportion of property, and it now contains an immoderate amount of property. Indeed we are now 15 in family, having received three additions in the last three days, namely the Doctor and a nurse and a dear little baby…. the Doctor is to sleep in the shed where five of the young men are accommodated.' It was a situation that might have appalled a far older housekeeper. But this one, the sum total of whose previous experience had been a few weeks' farm tuition before she left England in cheese-making, brewing and candle-making, grew only the bolder and livelier with every fresh challenge. 'I consider myself a much more respectable character than I was, when I was a fine lady in England and did nothing for anybody and made a great many people do things for me.' The young men were working hard, bush-falling and road-making—any housekeeping woman will be able to imagine the appetites with which they returned to the crowded little house. 'When my pantry shelves are scrubbed, the floor mopped, and it contains as it will tomorrow afternoon, a round of boiled beef, a roast leg of pork, a rhubarb pie, 15 large loaves and 8lbs of fresh butter … I feel as self-satisfied and proud as mortal can. A little while page 114since I should have thought it necessary to have somebody to prepare all these things for me, now I can do it all myself.' There were numbers of women who thus 'found' themselves, and they, and the manner in which they disputed the unaccustomed odds, are worth the consideration of any who may still doubt the wisdom of educating their daughters. That increased self-respect is a clue repeatedly found in the letters and journals of these early women of New Zealand. There is too the 'stability and freedom you feel,' as this woman further wrote, whose case is presented because it is typical and clear. 'Everything you see is your very own, the absolute possession of land gives a sort of certainty that with common industry and care you are in what may be your home till death.' This was a feeling shared by women in every part of the country, as well by those struggling in poverty and privation on their little clearings, as by those, wives and sisters, whose lives were less pinched though their labours almost as severe. It was a compensation and an inspiration for all. But the women the circumstances of whose birth and upbringing might at first sight make them appear the more to be pitied, 'plunged thus overhead in unusual employments,' had a further source of strength. The wider implications of their position would inevitably come home more immediately to their bosoms than to the bosoms of those who had not had the same advantages in the old life. 'We feel ourselves,' this page 115woman again writes, 'we feel ourselves members of an infant state, which will every day become more important, and the smallness of our affairs themselves does not make them contemptible when they are felt to be the germs from which great results will grow.' 'The thinking over all this and a hundred other things of this nature, is enough to make the most sluggish person "feel spirited".'

It is hoped that there will be no misunderstanding— their hard manual labours, the difficulties of the position to which they so triumphantly rose, are not here slighted. There is little danger of our forgetting these, even though it is not quite easy in our more favoured circumstances fully to appreciate them in their details. The other side of the picture, the offset to the exhausting daily round provided by their vision of the future (and it was in part at least their then radical ideas of social justice that had brought this family, like many another, to New Zealand), and their sense of participation in events, small in themselves yet moving to a great and noble end— this is very generally overlooked. And they were not exhausted. Their energy was boundless. 'Sometimes,' wrote the same young woman, a Taranaki settler, 'I am in such a state, that I feel convinced that nothing short of going up Mt Egmont can properly relieve me and let off the steam. At present, I only explode in the baking of 10 loaves or the making up of a dozen lb of butter, and an occasional page 116scramble down a gully tearing my clothes nearly to pieces.' Twelve years later a Canterbury woman wrote: 'I am in a chronic state of hunger; it is the fault of the fine air and the out-door life: and then how one sleeps at night! I don't believe you really know in England what it is to be sleepy as we feel sleepy here; and it is delightful to wake up in the morning with the sort of joyous light-heartedness which only young children have.' 'As for fatigue, one's muscles might get tired, and need rest, but the usual depression and weariness attending overexertion could not exist in such an atmosphere.' And it was, as we have seen, not on the physical plane alone that the atmosphere was light and buoyant. We may pity their want of comfort, and more particularly their lack of the mechanical aids that now lighten our own lives, most of all perhaps their isolation; it is quite easy to envy them the clear shining of New Zealand's morning. The sun still shines; but the greater complexity of present-day life casts more shadows on the path that seems less straight and less plain; it is more difficult now than it was then to keep one's face turned steadily to the east.