The Plunket Society, founded in 1907, has been heralded as New Zealand's most successful and famous voluntary organisation. Run by women for women, it played a vital role in the care of mothers and babies for most of the twentieth century, becoming a national and international icon. This comprehensive history of Plunket covers three broad themes: the relationship between the voluntary sector and the State in the provision of welfare, the development of paediatrics, and the relationship between health providers and their clients, the mothers. Bryder stresses, in particular, infant health and welfare, the political pressures applied by the government and medical profession, the influence of the remarkable women who shaped the fortunes of the society, and its diminishing impact in recent years. She also compares New Zealand's experience with other countries like Australia and Britain, and outlines the philosophy behind the organisation.
Historian Linda Bryder completed a DPhil at Oxford, UK, with a doctoral thesis on the social history of tuberculosis in Britain, which became her first published book, Below the Magic Mountain: the Social History of Tuberculosis in Twentieth-century Britain (OUP, 1988). She is presently based in the History Department of the University of Auckland, where she teaches twentieth-century New Zealand history, with a particular interest in the history of social policy and health care. She is on the editorial board of a number of international health and history journals including Hygeia Internationalis, and is a Council Member of the NZ Historical Association. She has written many papers for international journals and has just completed her latest book - a history of infant health care in New Zealand and the Plunket Society. In early 2002 Linda Bryder gave a series of public lectures in the UK including at University College London, "Paediatrics in New Zealand and the UK in the Twentieth Century" and at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, "New Zealand's Plunket Nursing Services: wasteful of time, money and effort?"