The Second World War seems to dominate our perceptions of the “war period”. Television programmes show us families reading the newspaper with apprehension or gathered around the radio to hear the latest news, eager men enlisting to fight, and the sweated brows of those left behind pulling together in common to defeat the enemy.
In mid 1940, the Germans was in the ascendancy and it seemed that Britain might fall. Such was the sense of peril that King George VI called upon his subjects to pray together on Sunday, 26 May for deliverance. This “day of national prayer” was met with great enthusiasm in Britain, and also in New Zealand where churches recorded large congregations for the day.
At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, New Zealand had a population of 1.6 million people, 90,000 of whom were Māori. Women were directed into employment alongside men. Women were particularly prominent in hospitality, the manufacturing industries, and professional occupations.