The Woman Who Invented Solo Mothers

There were widows who were respectable, deserted wives who were less so, divorcees who were not and solo mother who were beyond the pale. Mary Singleton on attitudes in the 1950s

Creating social history

By Roger Childs

Mary Singleton

Mary spoke at a recent Friends of the Library session as she launched her book: Was that really me? 

This engaging memoir reveals snippets of Mary’s fascinating life which, like everyone’s, has had plenty of ups and downs.

(KIN will publish a review by Robin Smith later this month.)

One interesting revelation was her involvement in setting up a solo mothers group in Wellington before that term for women bringing up children on their own was in vogue.

Getting Kiwi Keith on board

Photo credit: stuff

After four years of marriage Mary and her husband parted company and she was left with a 15 month old daughter to bring up. She wondered whether there were other ‘social outcasts’ like herself around Wellington and after a couple of years of battling on her own, she followed up an advert in the paper.

 So the first solo mothers group was established with Mary as Chairperson. 

Soon there were organisations all over the nation and the plight of solo mothers became news. Mary was the first person to appear on television putting the case for assistance for the hundreds of women across the land who were struggling to manage on their own.

Mary and her committee later had an audience with Prime Minister “Kiwi Keith” Holyoake.

Things improved remarkably after this time and I know we had a lot to do with it.


(Mary’s highly interesting memoir  Was that really me? can be purchased for $20 from Paper Plus, or direct from Mary at