|dc.description.abstract||The years 1885-1910 witnessed much debate and growing community interest in issues of women's health. By the end of the period professional specialisation in this field had achieved recognition. An analysis of the contributions of doctors, alternative healers and women's groups, together with some major controversies with which they were associated, provides some understanding of the important progress made during these years. Doctors utilised medical developments to offer a wider range of treatments to their female patients, while alternative healers advertised strenuously for their custom. Women themselves played a variety of roles, both as recipients and providers of health care. They also strenuously debated health issues and acted to change aspects of the system they disliked. Much of the concern regarding women's health was related to fears regarding the nation's birthrate. Many believed that improving the health of women would lead both to an increased birthrate and healthier babies.
The Women's Christian Temperance Union and writers in the feminist newspaper Daybreak, showed considerable interest in health issues, through the written word and lectures. These activists encouraged women to take responsibility for their own health and advocated dress reform, exercise and improvements in diet to achieve this. At the same time, they endorsed contemporary ideas concerning racial fitness and stressed the importance of women's health in relation to women's responsibilities as wives and mothers.
Alternative health practitioners, home medical manuals and newspaper medical columns offered a range of health advice to women. While medical manuals contained much information on women's health, newspaper medical columns tended in the main to be more concerned with general family health. Consequently, while not relating specifically to women's health, these columns were often directed at women, who were expected to have a considerable interest in this area.
Evidence given to the Sweating Commission in 1890 contained the views of workingclass women regarding the effects of their work environment on their health. Evidence given by members of the medical profession shows that they sought to restrict female participation in employment, particularly in shop and factory work, which they believed would harm women's reproductive abilities.
As the centre for medical education in New Zealand and a place where women's health issues came under particular scrutiny, Dunedin provides a good focus for examining the development of hospital gynaecological services. Dr Ferdinand Batchelor was appointed as the specialist in women's diseases at Dunedin Hospital in 1886. Along with several of his colleagues, he became increasingly concerned at the inadequacy of conditions at the hospital. After the death of one of his patients and the prolonged illness of another, Batchelor succeeded in initiating a Government Inquiry into the running of the hospital. At the Inquiry, Batchelor pressed for the establishment of a women's gynaecological ward and evidence given by him and other members of the medical profession contained many references to women's health. The report of the Inquiry upheld Batchelor's claims and a gynaecological ward was established soon after. In his work at the hospital in the period up to 1910, Batchelor implemented international developments in gynaecology in the treatment of his patients. While aspects of his treatment were primitive in contemporary terms, such procedures formed a small part of Batchelor's work, much of which served to improve the quality of life of many women.
The range of issues surrounding aspects of women's health at the turn of the century indicates that it was the focus of much scrutiny and interest. An examination of these issues enables present day concerns regarding women's health to be put into their historical perspective.||en_NZ