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Biography: Kate Crandell
Oral History: Doctors
Oral History: Hospitals

Public Health: Personal Health

For most of the study period, a person's livelihood depended on good health. Sickness and old age, accidents and disabilities led to poverty. A healthy body meant an ability to work, a wage and survival for your family. The unskilled especially relied on their capacity for hard physical labour. Workplace accidents threatened this capacity and could bring about a sudden descent into destitution. By the 1930s this risk was much less acceptable to New Zealanders than it had been in 1890. As a result, successive governments at first introduced, then expanded support for the unemployed and their families.

Abortion toolsWomen faced their own unique risk - pregnancy. The rate of women dying in childbirth remained high until the late 1930s. The declining average number of births reduced women's exposure to the dangers of childbirth and consequent ill health. This photograph shows equipment used by an abortionist who operated in the South Dunedin area. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

DrainageThe expansion of Dunedin on to 'the Flat' was partly an escape from the crowded and unsanitary conditions of the central city. Pockets of grimy, crowded housing did develop in places like Kensington but the ocean breezes had a cleansing effect on the Southern suburbs. The open fields and sports venues dotted across the landscape added to the impression of a healthy suburban environment. Upgrading of public facilities, including relaying sewer pipes and water mains pipes, resulted in a healthier community and a better standard of living for everyone. In this 1909 photograph, workers are replacing original clay drainage and sewerage pipes in Caversham. (Dunedin City Council Archives)

Tonic BottlesOld advertisements and oral histories reveal an obsessive concern with bowel movements in the study period. Patent medicines to ensure 'regularity' (often sold in these 'five fluid ounce' bottles) were immensely popular. Constipation was seen as the cause of a wide range of physical and psychological ills. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Night CartFrom 1900 the disposal of effluent from backyard toilets was restricted. Human wastes (nightsoil) from 'the Flat' was deposited in the St Kilda sand dunes, later transformed into the southern end of Chisholm Park golf course. The 'nightmen' who disposed of it performed their unpleasant task between midnight and five o'clock in the morning. Progressively, however, in-door plumbing brought flush toilets to the households of southern Dunedin. St Kilda's first 'nightcart' driven by 'Nightman' Mr Hollander was a common sight on South Dunedin streets in the early twentieth century. This photograph was taken in 1910. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Clothing CompanyMen were more often vulnerable to accidents in the workplace than women due to the type of physical work they undertook. Hillside metal workers suffered frequent minor accidents and organised their own Sick Benefit Society from 1882. Women's workplaces were not safe either. Workers at Caversham's Wax Vesta match factory risked phosphorous poisoning from the match making process. New regulations prohibited women and children from mixing or dipping phosphorous matches from 1894. Overhead belt driven machinery would have provided a dangerous working environment for the young women in this late 1890s scene from the New Zealand Clothing Company's factory. The combination of open, drive belts and long flowing dresses make for an obvious hazard. (Timeframes Online Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa)

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