Irene Paulger and Adoption


Paulger was the child of an unmarried woman and was raised by her grandparents on a farm in the Taranaki province of New Zealand. She trained as a teacher and was sent to the extremely isolated Maori village of Maungapohatu to found a new school for the community there which had grown up around the prophet Rua Kenana Hepetipa. She stayed there until 1947, when poor health forced her to move to Auckland.

She became deeply attached to and involved in the Maungpohatu community and the surrounding Tuhoe tribe, and adopted four children there. She was in turn formally adopted by the Maungapohatu people, who named her Huhana, in honor of the chieftainess Huhana Tutakangahau, who had donated the land for the school.

In Auckland she lived with her mother, but because of the stigma then surrounding illegitimacy, they maintained the fiction that they were sisters, even to the point of her mother registering her daughter's death in the name of her grandparents.


The Book of New Zealand Women = Ko Kui ma te Kaupapa, edited by Charlotte Macdonald, Merimeri Penfold and Bridget Williams. (Wellington: Bridget Williams Books, 1991) Binney, Judith; Chaplin, Gillian; and Wallace, Craig. Mihaia: The Prophet Rua Kenana and His Community at Maungapohatu. (Wellington: Oxford University Press, 1979)