Shore Whaler's Wahine


The primary objective of this website is to inspire and encourage interested persons to compile biographical profiles about those fascinating wahine/women who partnered the New Zealand shore whalers (including some of their predecessors and contemporaries) thereby preserving their story. I sincerely hope that by offering the benefit of my experience to others that they might in return contribute essays, which would then enlarge my existing collection.

I firmly believe that these women are an important part of Aotearoa's history. It is a little recognised fact that the wahine that partnered the sealers, timber and flax traders and whalers where the pioneers of the modern New Zealand society where increasingly there is a mix of people from varying nationalities and cultures.

A brochure "Instructions to Contributors" can be found on the "Information" page, This contains all the essential information required to compile biographical profiles. The "Profile Example" page provides visitors with an example of a completed essay. The contributors' Application Form can be found attached to the page of that name. Other webpages or sub pages add supplementary information and background detail.

My daughter and I have attempted to design a website that will generate enthusiasm amongst our proposed target audience. We hope that graphic material; historic photographs and paintings compliment the text, which they accompany. Visitors' feedback would be welcomed.


Historians that have specialised in writing about the shore whalers have to date mainly been pre-occupied with the Pākehā whalers. It is lamentable that so little has been recorded about their partners. Whilst creating a more balanced account is not easy, one of my principal aims is to further the general public's understanding of these wahine/women by producing a published account of their lives both at the individual and collective level.

The site's target audience will not only comprise the descendants of these wahine/women but also include other interested persons who may wish to contribute profiles for a variety of reasons. Contributors can be either individuals or several people and will be of Māori or Pākehā descent. They are likely to have been born or reside in Aotearoa.

My own research has made me realise that many descendants commonly identify these wahine as the matriarchs of their modern-day whānau. Many Southern Māori for example not only view these wahine as inspirational personalities but also see them as their "conduit" to Māoridom.

Whilst my research to date has focussed mainly on Southern Māori subjects I have a keen interest in recording details of wahine from other Iwi. I would like to compare the lives of these other wahine with those of their Kāi Tahu Whānui contemporaries thereby facilitating inter-Iwi comparisons. I am certain that there are persons of Māori descent from other Iwi that share my passion for learning more about their wahine tūpuna (ancestors) who partnered the shore whalers.

With the exception of Betty Guard, there are very few published biographical works profiling these wahine/women. I consider that a thoroughly researched collection of essays would contribute to a greater understanding and appreciation of their lives and relationships with their shore whaler partners. It would add some feminine balance to this period of our nation's history!

I believe that the role of these wahine/women deserves greater recognition. Much has been written about the whalers and of more recent times of Pākehā Māori and their status as "cultural crossers" or "transculturalists". By living with Pākehā the wahine that partnered the sealers, flax traders, timber traders and whalers could also be seen in a similar light. These Māori women to varying degrees, adopted Pākehā ways and by doing so also crossed the "cultural divide".

My aim is to collect a minimum of sixty biographical profiles. Since the beginning of 2001 I have been working towards this objective. Although time consuming and sometimes frustrating I have now completed 20 draft profiles and have others at varying stages of completion. I have been able capitalise on my previous years of genealogical research in relation to those wahine who were members of my own whānau, and those whānau with connections through intermarriage.

I hope that there are other interested people that share my passion who will be willing to actively contribute to my research project. This will assist me in achieving the objectives associated with this historical work. I am sure that by involving other interested persons it will add greater interest and variety to the biographical scope of this project.

Stephen J Donaldson
February 2009