Story: Women and men

Shrinking families

Shrinking families

The large family typical of the Victorian period and the smaller one of the 1920s are shown here. At top are the Johnston family in 1880 – nine children, with parents Charles and Alice. Below are the Newlands in 1923, three children and parents Lillian and Edward. The Johnstons and the Newlands were typical of their times. Until the 1880s almost all women married, and had on average almost nine births. After that the number of women marrying dropped, and the birth rate slowed. The average number of births for all women (married and unmarried) dropped to 3.5 by 1900 and then fell further, reaching 2.1 by the mid-1930s.

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Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: PAColl-5564-003 (top); PAColl-6075-18 (bottom);

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Charlotte Macdonald, 'Women and men - Mothers and voters: 1880s–1920s', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 18 June 2024)

Story by Charlotte Macdonald, published 5 May 2011, updated 1 Aug 2017