Michael Joseph Savage memorabilia
Michael Joseph Savage (1872-1940), or “Mickey” as he affectionately became known, was one of the country’s best loved Prime Minister’s. For two generations he spearheaded the social security structure of New Zealand, being a leading spokesman for increased pensions and a totally free health system.
He was a leading figure in the New Zealand Labour Party following its formation in 1916, and he succeeded Harry Holland as leader, following the latter’s death in 1933. In 1935 Savage became New Zealand’s first Labour Prime Minister, when Labour was swept into power at the tail end of the Depression. Immediately a Christmas bonus was paid to the unemployed and poor, and a programme of state housing commenced. In 1938 he began drawing up plans for his Social Security system, calling it “applied Christianity”. This provided for a universal free health system and an old-age pension of 30 shillings a week for men and women at age 60, with a general payment at the age of 65.
"Mickey" Savage, along with Peter Fraser and Walter Nash were considered the big three in the early years of the first Labour Government. In 1938, despite already being diagnosed with colon cancer, Savage made many inspiring speeches during the election campaign, leading the Labour government to an even greater victory than in 1935. Despite declining health he continued to lead the government, until on 27 March 1940, he died at his home in Wellington, at the height of his popularity.
There was a huge outpouring of grief after Savage’s death, with hundreds of thousands paying their respects in Wellington and Auckland and at stops along the main trunk line as his body was transported to its final resting place at Auckland’s Bastion Point, where the Savage Memorial now stands. For decades after his death his photograph still hung on the wall in thousands of New Zealand homes.
The Nash collection contains a number of letters lamenting the death of Michael Joseph Savage, a small sample of which can be found here, as well as the programme for his Wellington memorial service (Archival reference: R22850921). These and further letters of sympathy can be found at R22849290, folios 1-92, of the Nash collection.
Size: 8 items
(27 items total)