Gloriavale employment case: Judge says suggestion women had ‘choice’ largely illusory

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The Employment Court has found Serenity Pilgrim, Anna Courage, Rose Standtrue, Crystal Loyal, Pearl Valor and Virginia Courage were employees who worked extremely hard under punishing conditions for years on end.

In a case traversing challenging spiritual terrain and the Southern Alps, 50 witnesses came to tell their gospel truth before the court’s chief judge. Slave labour or a labour of love? Jean Edwards reports.

What’s in a Gloriavale name? A lot, as it turns out.

Members are often mocked for names derived from the Bible or Christian values, but for the six former Gloriavale women who testified to a life of servitude at the secretive religious sect, courage is a virtue.

Recounting her journey from the West Coast commune to the witness box, lead plaintiff Serenity Pilgrim told the court she worked an average of 90 hours a week during her teenage years.

“As far as I remember, we always had to work. It was work or get told off and get in trouble,” she said.

The court heard the women were destined to a life of drudgery on Gloriavale’s domestic teams from the day they were born, working long hours from the age of 15 preparing food, cooking, cleaning and doing the laundry.

The women, all of whom were born into the community, said they worked on a gruelling four-day rotation under an all-pervading regime of secular and religious control with few if any breaks.

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