Until 1934 New Zealand women who married a foreigner automatically lost their nationality and took on their husband’s. Miriam Soljak, whose passport photo is shown here, found herself an ‘enemy alien’ during the First World War because she was married to Croatian immigrant Peter Soljak. Miriam Soljak was forced to register with the police, her activities were restricted, and she was refused a bed in a maternity home when giving birth to her seventh child. She was determined to change the law, and pushed the Labour Party (of which she was a member) to take up the issue.
From 1934 New Zealand women who married foreigners were allowed to keep their own citizenship if they stayed in New Zealand. In 1948 a woman’s citizenship became completely independent of that of her husband. It would be another 29 years before a New Zealand woman could pass New Zealand citizenship on to her foreign-born husband and their children.
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