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.
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.”
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.
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!