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Wealth in the Depression

Woman's shoes
Woman's shoes about 1930. Gift of Mrs P Cousins, date unknown. Te Papa

Not all New Zealanders were poor during the Great Depression – a small elite remained 'well heeled'. They could still afford luxuries such as shoes and vacuum cleaners, capitalising on lower prices. Some raised money for the 'down at heel', and wealthy households provided odd jobs.

High society, dark days

Some high-society traditions continued too, like a debutante ball at Government House in the Spring of 1931. A local magazine described some of the 'exquisite' outfits of the 500 guests.

The social and economic scene was bleaker elsewhere. Public servants had their second wage cut of 10 percent, and work relief schemes were at saturation point. The government would soon introduce its most notorious measure, Scheme 6A – rural labour camps for unmarried men. These camps were widely disliked and were even labelled 'slave camps'.



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