NZ Plunket nurses tending to the infants and babies in their care.

Happy Birthday Plunket!

19 May 2017
The Plunket Society turned 110 years old this month.

By Sarah Johnston

One of New Zealand’s most famous institutions, “The Society for the Promotion of the Health of Women and Children” was founded at a public meeting in Dunedin in May 1907 by Dr Frederic Truby King.

It was re-named The Plunket Society after one of its early supporters, Lady Plunket, the wife of the governor-general at the time.

You can hear Sarah Johnston from Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision talking to RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan about recordings about Plunket here or read more and listen to the full recordings at the links below.

An older man, Truby King, sits in a chair, with a small child, Madelaine beside him.

Truby King and Madelaine

Andrew, Stanley Polkinghorne, 1878-1964. Original photographic prints and postcards from file print collection, Box 8. Ref: PAColl-6075-16. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/23127422.

Kate Challis Hooper trained as an early Karitane nurse at Truby King’s first hospital at Anderson’s Bay near Dunedin in 1915.  In this interview from 1961 she vividly describes the rather spartan conditions for nurses and babies, but also her enthusiasm for Dr King’s work, “helping mothers and saving babies.”

Kate Challis Hooper recalls the early days (1961, Ref. 2074) Listen to complete item here.

It seems nowhere was too remote for Plunket.  Mrs Beryl Sutherland, who raised her family near Milford Sound in the 1930s (as her husband worked on building the Homer Tunnel),  recalls getting a welcome visit from Plunket in her remote location.

Life at the Homer Tunnel during the 1930s (1970, Ref 2083) Listen to complete item here.

In 1952, the magazine programme, “Radio Digest” visited Plunket’s Karitane Hospital in Melrose, Wellington to mark its 25th anniversary and broadcaster David Kohn interviewed nurses as well as a resident mother, who had been enjoying Plunket’s care so much she was reluctant to go home!

Radio Digest No. 149 (1952, Ref 2087) Listen to complete item here.

The cover of an old Plunket book with a picture of a woman and a child on the front.

Royal New Zealand Society for the Health of Women and Children :”Plunket Society”. Baby record; Plunket nurse’s advice to mothers. “To help the mothers and save the babies” [Front cover. 1936].