Going up north : unmarried mothers and the New Zealand state, 1950-1980 : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University, New Zealand
New Zealand historians have long been interested in changing attitudes and treatment towards unmarried mothers between the years 1950 to 1980. In the discourse surrounding women’s sexuality and reproductive practices, unmarried mothers were perceived as a grave social threat, undermining the stability of the heteronormative, nuclear family. While the historiography of unmarried mothers’ experiences within institutional “mother and baby homes” is robust, there is less research on women who managed their pregnancies within the community. “Going Up North: Unmarried Mothers and the New Zealand State, 1980 – 1950” seeks to address these gaps by interviewing women who found themselves pregnant and unmarried throughout this time period, and did not reside in an institutional home. Additionally, the provision of state services such as healthcare and financial aid are examined through a feminist lens and used to evaluate changing perceptions and attitudes towards unmarried mothers. Using feminist theory, “Going Up North” locates these changes in the rise of feminist thought, rather than commonly assumed markers such as the instigation of the Domestic Purposes Benefit. By recording the insight and experiences of unmarried mothers within the community during these crucial decades of change, we can enrich our understanding of the current history of reproductive rights in New Zealand which underwrites attitudes towards women, families and reproduction in New Zealand today.