Negotiating infant welfare : the Plunket Society in the interwar period
This thesis considers the Plunket Society during the interwar period. The Plunket Society, a voluntary infant welfare organisation in New Zealand, was established in 1907 to 'help the mothers and save the babies'. Plunket pushed motherhood into the public sphere, providing advice on 'scientific motherhood' through a home visiting scheme, mother and baby care centres and advice literature. This thesis is concerned with the process by which the Plunket Society became the contested domain of infant welfare reformers, nurses, the medical profession and the Health Department in the interwar period. This thesis provides an institutional history of the Plunket Society within three intertwining themes: the Society's relationships with the state, the medical profession, and the development of its own organisational structures. It studies the impact of the Government's endorsement of the Plunket Society in the 1920s and 1930s, particularly the benefits and limits of closer relations with the Health Department. From its establishment the Society relied on Truby King's authority and this thesis traces the internal politics of the Plunket Society in a period of transition from the charismatic leadership of its founder to a more bureaucratic system by the end of the 1930s. At the same time - and complicating the period of transition - medical research on infant health developed rapidly and New Zealand's child-health specialists challenged the Society's artificial infant feeding prescriptions and dominance over infant welfare in the interwar period. King's methods had become institutionalised by the 1930s and this, combined with the limits of its internal structures, shaped the Society’s response to pressure from the medical profession to modernise its methods. This thesis concludes that despite considerable internal upheaval, and external pressure from the Health Department and the medical profession, the Plunket Society's prescriptions and services changed little over the interwar period. Despite constant challenges the Plunket Society grew into a truly nationwide organisation which dominated infant welfare in New Zealand in the interwar years.
Advisor: Brookes, Barbara; Olssen, Erik
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: History
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis
vi, 139 leaves :ill. ; 30 cm. Bibliography: leaves -139.