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Related Links
Biography: John Patrick Jager
Oral History:1918 Influenza Epidemic
Oral History: Lodges, Friendly Societies

Public Health: Family Issues

As family size shrank across 'the Flat', the importance of protecting children's health grew. Mothers worried about their babies and did all they could to stave off tragedy. They made sure their children had plenty of fresh air, nutritious food and regular bowel movements.

Tonic BottlesWilson's Malt Extract and Lane's Emulsion were staples in the diet of southern Dunedin children. In return for regular consumption, these 'tonics' promised healthier, stronger, happier children. Patent medicines were equally popular. Newspapers and books provided the latest suggestions on diet and health. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Truby KingTruby King founded the Society for the Promotion of the Health of Women and Children - more commonly called the 'Plunket Society' in 1907. Its first nurses' training school was in Andersons Bay - a Dunedin suburb adjoining 'the Flat'. Plunket's founding coincided with a longer term decline in infant mortality. Over the next thirty years infant mortality in New Zealand dropped by a third. In this undated cartoon from The Tickler, King's 'Plunket System' of baby care - which emphasised strict feeding, sleeping, toileting, bathing and playing patterns, is caricatured. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Childrens health campBy the 1890s new scientific understandings of the causes of disease, and how to control them, were filtering through to popular understanding. This stressed the importance of hygiene and healthy living. Dirt was seen as the enemy of healthy homes. The mothers of 'the Flat' led the battle against the germs that spread disease. They scrubbed their floors with a passion, beat the carpets and boiled the laundry. Home Science emerged as a discipline and spread the message of hygienic household management among the next generation of mothers. Even so, not all children were healthy and happy. Health camps, and this 'Caversham Open Air School for Delicate Children' from the 1920s were founded on the belief that fresh air, sunshine, exercise and good food three times a day were essential for growing bodies. (Otago Witness, 4 January 1928. Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Consumption NoticeTuberculosis was a major cause of death in nineteenth century New Zealand. In 1910 a special sanatorium was built at Pleasant Valley, Palmerston, for Otago sufferers. Infectious diseases, such as rheumatic fever, could spread rapidly through families and neighbourhoods. Typhoid, a major scourge in the nineteenth century, declined as living conditions and water supplies improved. This official government notice gives the public advice on avoiding tuberculosis, how to recognise if you have the disease and where to seek help if you are infected. (Timeframes Online Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa)

anti Drink CartoonAlcoholism was a scourge, especially for men and, through them, their wives and families. It was the major reason for male admissions to the Seacliff Mental Asylum. A drunken father could drag his entire family into poverty. Women, too, sometimes took refuge from their troubles in drink. (The Sketcher, December 1914. Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Lodge itemsFriendly Societies provided one of the few ways for families to protect themselves against the loss of an income through sickness or accident. Many of the numerous Lodges operating on 'the Flat' - social organisations like the Masons, the Oddfellows, the Druids and the Foresters - offered such benefit schemes. They played a key role in insuring families against ill health until the 1938 Social Security Act. This photograph shows some of the ceremonial items used by the Foresters Lodge including deer horns and an 'apron' featuring the Society's insignia. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

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