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Motherhood & the baby boom

Presentation cradle with doll
Presentation cradle with doll 1927, Grady, Frank (1870–1941), New Zealand. Purchased 2005. Te Papa

Until the 1970s, motherhood was considered a woman's primary and natural duty. Children would ensure New Zealand's prosperity and were a cause for celebration – and gifts like this presentation cradle. In the boom years after World War II, the population soared – from 1.7 million in 1945 to 3 million in 1973.

From 1945, all mothers received a family allowance of 10 shillings – the equivalent of $37 in 2010 – per week per child. Often the money was spent on the children, but it could be cashed up in bulk later and used as a deposit on a house.

In the 1950s, the average number of children per family doubled from two to four. By 1961, one third of the population were aged under 16. As a result, school rolls ballooned.

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