Marilyn Waring

From Academic Kids

Marilyn Waring (born 1952) is a renowned New Zealand feminist and activist for "female human rights" author and academic. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Economy.

She became the youngest member in the New Zealand Parliament in 1975, at the age of 23, a position she kept until 1984.

As of 2005, she is a senior lecturer in Social Policy and Social Work at Albany Campus of Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand. She has held Fellowships at Harvard and Rutgers Universities. She is a member of the Board of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

She has worked as a consultant for organizations such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Yukon Territorial Government, the Ford Foundation, and the Ontario Provincial Government.



Waring's recent work has focused on women's work as an issue of international human rights. She has also done activist work on behalf of women imprisoned or denied refugee status "because of feminist political issues beyond the restricted definitions and practices of international human rights," she says.

She became well known in Canada following a 1995 National Film Board of Canada video documentary on her work, Who's Counting: Sex, Lies and Global Economics.

She is an outspoken critic of GDP, the economic measure that became a foundation of the United Nations System of National Accounts following World War II. She ridicules a system which 'counts oil spills and wars as contributors to economic growth, while child-rearing and housekeeping are deemed valueless.'


Early Life

In 1973, Waring received an Honours BA in Political Science and International Politics from Victoria University of Wellington.

Political Career (1975-1984)

In 1975 general election, she became the New Zealand National Party member of Parliament for the Raglan electorate. She fell out with Prime Minister Rob Muldoon almost immediately.

During her period in Parliament, she served as Chair of the Public Expenditures Committee, Senior Government Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and on the Disarmament and Arms Control Committee.

Waring made history during her political career when she withdrew her support from her party over the issue of a nuclear-free New Zealand, precipitating a snap election in 1984. Her action brought down the government, and led to New Zealand becoming the first country to ban nuclear ships from its harbours.

Muldoon justified the snap election with Waring's revolt; however, historians have been critical of this excuse, as Waring said at the time and has repeated since that she would not have denied the Government confidence or supply, and would not have prevented Muldoon from governing.

Academic Life

In 1984, she left politics and returned to lecturing, where her research has focused on social welfare, human rights and on economic factors that influence legislation and aid.

In 1988, she published If Women Counted.

In 1989, she was awarded a Ph.D. in Political Economy, and in 1990, she was awarded the University of Waikato Research Council grant to continue work on "female human rights."

Between 1991 and 1994, Marilyn Waring served as Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and the Politics of Human Rights with the Department of Politics at the University of Waikato, New Zealand.


In between her academic and activist engagements, Waring farms angora goats and sheep on her hill-farm north of Auckland. Her farm is organised for maximum simplicity and self-sufficiency. The "good life" includes a pet pig "Tammy" that follows her on her rounds.

Further reading

  • Waring, Marilyn. Women, Politics, and Power: Essays, Unwin Paperbacks-Port Nicholson Press (1984). This is a feminist analysis of modern economics, revealing how woman's housework, caring of the young, sick and the old is automatically excluded from value in economic theory.
  • Waring, Marilyn. If Women Counted, Macmillan (1988). If Women Counted points out the shortcomings of ignoring women’s unpaid work in economic tallies. She later produced a documentary on the same topic, Counting for Nothing (see later).
  • Waring, Marilyn. Three Masquerades: Essays on Equality, Work and Hu(man) Rights, Auckland: Auckland University Press with Bridget Williams Books (1996) ISBN 0802080766. Three Masquerades includes references to Waring's years in Parliament, which she describes as "an experience of counterfeit equality." It also looks at her experiences with farming and with the development field, where she was "daily confronted with the travesty of excluding women's unpaid work from the policy-making process."
  • Waring, Marilyn. Counting for Nothing: What Men Value and What Women are Worth, Bridget Williams Books (1998). [first published 1977; reprinted seven times] ISBN 0802082602
  • Waring, Marilyn. In the Lifetime of a Goat: Writings 1984-2000, Bridget Williams Books (April, 2004) ISBN 1877242098
  • The National Film Board of Canada. Who's Counting?: Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies, and Global Economics. [Video]. Directed by Terre Nash (1995) ISBN 0-7722-0680-5

See also


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