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Charity in the Depression

A room full of shoes to be given to the wives of unemployed men during the Great Depression
A room full of shoes to be given to the wives of unemployed men during the Great Depression 1930, Photographer unknown, courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand (PAColl-6304-33)

Inadequate state support during the Great Depression forced many jobless New Zealanders to accept charity. Mayors and their wives were among the better-off who collected second hand clothes, food, and money for the poor.

Some fundraisers organised 'copper trails' (lines of pennies and other coins) to collect money for the poor. 'Pennies for happiness' was the slogan of Wellington's 1932 'Happiness Week'. Small change could make a big difference to people in distress.

Do-it-yourselfers

But some people were too ashamed to accept handouts. Having their level of hardship judged by charity workers was often humiliating. Unemployed men were sometimes labelled layabouts rather than the victims of a global economic crisis.

'Do-it-yourselfers' made or recycled anything they could, created backyard vegetable patches, or hunted and fished. For an extra penny, some took in boarders or sold items door to door.



© Copyright Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, New Zealand.