Miraka Rataruki Petrecevich (Mira) Szaszy

Ngāti Kurī

1921 - 2001

Miraka Petrecevich was born in Waihopo, north of Kaitaia, to a Yugoslav father, Lawrence Petricevich, and a Māori mother, Makereta née Raharuhi. She was educated at Te Hapua Primary School, Queen Victoria Māori Girls’ School, Fagans Coaching College and Auckland Girls’ Grammar School. She attended Auckland Teachers’ Training College and Auckland University. She graduated with a B.A. in Education in 1945. In 1948 she attended the University of Hawaii as a post-graduate student in Social Science on a Pan-Pacific Fellowship offered by the American Association of University Women; she graduated with a Diploma in Social Science in 1949. Mira worked as a primary and secondary school teacher in 1946 and from From 1946-48 she worked for the Māori Affairs Department in social welfare work and was an Employment Officer from From 1952-57 she was Executive Secretary of the Māori Women’s Welfare League (MWWL) and in 1955 was a MWWL delegate at the Pan-Pacific Women’s Association in Manila. In 1956 she married Albert Szaszy and had two sons. In 1971 she was Vice President of the League and from 1973-77 was the MWWL Dominion President. She was a lecturer at the Auckland Secondary Teachers’ College from 1972-78 and was Director of the Community Department of Nga Tapuwae College from She taught Māori language at Auckland Girls’ Grammar for four years and retired to the far north in 1985. She has been a member of many school, church, and iwi boards including the Māori Fisheries Commission (1990), Waiora Marae Chairperson (1987), Waiora Papakainga Manager, Runanga o Ngāti Kuri, Aupouri, Ngai Takoto and Mirasy Consultancy Personal Business. She was a member of the first Māori Education Foundation Trust from 1962-70, and a member of the National Committee on Māori Education in 1976. In 1988 she was part of the advisory committee resulting in the establishment of the Māori Women’s Ministry and Māori Women’s Secretariat in the Department of Women’s Affairs. In 1990 she was a delegate to the Māori Congress. She was the recipient of the Queen’s Service Medal (1975), the Silver Jubilee Medal (1977) and was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1990. She was a J.P. andin 1993 received a Victoria University Honorary Doctor of Laws in recognition for her contribution to New Zealand. Her writing was mainly confined to non-fiction work with many of her speeches transcribed and published. She was interviewed in newspapers, magazines, radio and TVNZ’s Waka Huia and Marae programmes.

Biographical sources

  • Phone conversation with Mira Szaszy: 11 August 1998.
  • Te Ha questionaire, 1992.
  • http://www.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/home/about/maori-at-the-university/ma-research/ma-mira-szaszy-research-centre#s3c1 14 Oct. 2010.


  • "Mira Szaszy: Māori leader, Feminist." Head & Shoulders: Successful New Zealand Women Talk To Virginia Myers. Auckland, N.Z.: Penguin, 1986. 232-249. Rpt. 1986, 1987.
  • Szaszy presents a frank discussion of her childhood, educational achievements, and the injustices she discovered while working as a welfare officer. She comments on the prejudice encountered within the Māori world due to her educational background, appearance and gender. She describes her early involvement with the Māori Women’s Welfare League in the 1950s and notes its changing character over the next two decades. She discusses the impact of her keynote speech at the 1982 United Women’s Convention when she talked of inequalitites.
  • "Recording the History of the Māori Women’s Welfare League." Interview with Anne Else. Women’s Studies Journal 6.1/2 (Nov. 1990): 17-21.
  • Szaszy discusses the vision of compiling a history of the Māori Women’s Welfare League and some of the difficulties faced in facilitating the vision.
  • "Opening My Mouth." Heading Nowhere in a Navy Blue Suit and other TALES from the FEMINIST REVOLUTION. Ed. Sue Kedgley & Mary Varnham. Thorndon, Wellington, N.Z.: Daphne Brasell, 1993. 75-84.
  • An account of Szaszy’s involvement with issues facing Māori women and her stand on the speaking rights of Māori women on the marae.
  • "Creed." http://www.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/home/about/maori-at-the-university/ma-research/ma-mira-szaszy-research-centre#s3c1 21 Oct. 2010.
  • Non-fiction

  • "Women in Asia." Te Ao Hou 12 (1955): 8-10.
  • Szaszy reports on her attendance at the Seventh International Conference of the Pan-Pacific Women’s Association held in Manila in January-February 1955.
  • "Māori Women - From Community Hostess To Family Drudge?" NZ Listener 15 Oct. 1973: 20-21. An extract rpt in Te Māori 5.6 (Nov. 1973): 27.
  • An edited transcript of Szaszy’s address to the United Women’s Convention in Auckland in September 1983, in which she examines the position of Māori women in traditional Māori society and the changes wrought by European settlement, the introduction of Christianity and the Māori migration to the cities.
  • "Māori Women’s Welfare League Conference in Hamilton." Te Ao Hou 76 (1975): 8-17.
  • The greater part of this article is the text of Szaszy’s opening address at the Māori Women’s Welfare League Conference in Hamilton in which she responds to a challenge laid down by Duncan MacIntyre in 1972 for the League to report on its work, sort out its priorities and decide its future plan of action for the next decade. Szaszy reports on the progress of the League during its first twenty years and looks at the ‘challenge of the Seventies’ noting the huge movement of Māori to the cities and the problems that accompany this movement. Her speech concludes with a six-point plan of action for the League’s future.
  • "The Leadership Role of Māori Women." Report of the Young Māori Leaders Conference. Auckland, N.Z.: Auckland University, 1977.
  • A transcript of Szaszy’s address on Māori women to the Young Māori Leaders’ Conference in Auckland, N.Z. in 1977 which was also presented overseas.
  • "Transcript of Koha Programme, 23 May, 1983, TVNZ One: A Documentary of the Mental Health of the Māori People." New Zealand Ethnic Relations Study Guide 4.2 (Aug. 1983): 9-14.
  • "A Perspective on the Treaty of Waitangi." Report of the Royal Commission on Social Policy. Vol. 3. Pt. 1. Wellington, N.Z.: Govt. Printer, 1988. 223-277.
  • "Treaty Issues: The Treaty of Waitangi." Te Iwi o Aotearoa 41 (Feb. 1991): 17.
  • Szaszy contends that ‘the 148 years of imbalance can be righted in the cargoholds of the ship of state’.
  • "Me Aro Koe Ki Te Ha O Hine-Ahu-One/Pay Heed To The Dignity of Women." Broadsheet 114 (Oct 1983): 15-17. An extract rpt. in Te Ao Mārama: Regaining Aotearoa: Māori Writers Speak Out. Comp. and ed. Witi Ihimaera. Contributing ed. Haare Williams, Irihapeti Ramsden and D. S. Long. Vol. 2: He Whakaatanga O Te Ao: The Reality. Auckland, N.Z.: Reed, 1993. 287-291.
  • In this text of Szaszy’s speech at the Māori Women’s Welfare League National Conference in Auckland, N.Z. in 1983, Szaszy speaks out against sexism. While she asserts that ‘both Christian and Māori beliefs declare the divine origins of women’, she believes the marae to be ‘a patriarchal institution’ and ‘the denial of equal rights to women on the Marae reinforces the structures which dominate and oppress them in the Pakeha world.’ Noting the poor health statistics of Māori women, Szaszy speculates whether this is due to Māori women living in a racist and sexist culture which produces in them an ‘identity of inferiority’ leading to ‘spiritual degradation’. In Māori and English
  • Te Timatanga-Tatau Tatau: Early Stories from Foundation Members of the Māori Women’s Welfare League - As Told to Dame Mira Szaszy. Wellington, N.Z.: Bridget Williams, 1993.
  • "On the Lack of Speaking Rights On the Marae for Women." http://www.auckland.ac.nz/uoa/home/about/maori-at-the-university/ma-research/ma-mira-szaszy-research-centre#s3c1 14 Oct. 2010.
  • Other

  • Hawke, Sharon. "Mira Szaszy." Broadsheet 112 (1983): 33-35.
  • The first part of an interview with Szaszy.
  • Hawke, Sharon. " Mira Szaszy." Broadsheet 114 (1983): 12-14.
  • In this final section of Sharon Hawke’s interview, Szaszy talks of the early goals of the Māori Women’s Welfare League, the developments of the League in the 1970s and ‘80s, and the League’s relationship with the New Zealand Māori Council and the Māori Affairs Department. This interview is followed by the text of Szaszy’s presentation, ‘Me Aro Koe Ki Te Ha O Hine-Ahu-One/Pay Heed to The Dignity of Women", delivered at the 1983 Māori Women’s Welfare League National Conference in Auckland pp. 15-17.


  • Coney, Sandra. "Meet The Speakers At The United Women’s Convention." Broadsheet 12 (1973): 13-16.
  • Else, Anne. "Recording The History Of The Māori Womens Welfare League." Women’s Studies Journal 6.1 & 6.2 (1990): 17-21.
  • "Honoured." Northern Advocate 28 Jun. 1990: 2.
  • Hooper, Michael. "A Sense Of Justice." Listener 5 Feb. 1990: 4-5.
  • "Māori Leader Honoured." Pacific Islands Monthly: PIM 61.1 (1991): 15-16.
  • "Me Aro Koe Ki Te Ha O Te Hine-Ahu-One." Tu Tangata 13 (Aug./Sept. 1983): 7.
  • In this report of the 1983 annual Māori Women’s Welfare League Conference in Auckland, N.Z., Szaszy’s address challenging sexism on the marae occupies the major discussion of this article.
  • "Plea for Māori Language." Press [Christchurch] 2 June 1993: 7.
  • Webby, Kim and Tapu Misa. "A Mighty Woman." Mana 44 (2002): 24-30.
  • Erai, Michelle, Fuli, Everdina, Irwin, Kathie and Wilcox, Lenaire. Māori Women: An Annotated Bibliography. Wellington, N.Z.: Michelle Erai, Everdina Fuli, Kathie Irwin and Lenaire Wilcox, 1991. 32.
  • Reviews

    Te Timatanga-Tatau Tatau: Early Stories from Foundation members of the Māori Women’s League - As Told to Dame Mira Szaszy.
  • "Book Recreates League’s Early Days." Sunda Times 12 Sept. 1993: 24.
  • Lees, Keith. "Stories Reveal Struggle Of Māori Women." Christchurch Star 9 Apr. 1994: 13.