Ettie Rout

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Ettie Rout

Ettie Rout was a safe-sex campaigner during World War One, a role which gained her the love and support of New Zealand troops, but also saw her called 'the most wicked woman in Britain'.

In 1915, during the Gallipoli campaign, she formed an organisation called The Volunteer Sisterhood which enlisted New Zealand women to work overseas in hospitals and YMCA canteens supporting New Zealand soldiers. This was despite opposition from the Government which did not want women assisting with the war effort overseas.  

Rout soon saw the terrible problem of venereal disease, which soldiers were contracting by visiting brothels in Egypt and Europe. She developed a safe-sex kit, to be supplied to all New Zealand men, containing condoms and other STD preventatives and she also encouraged health checks of sex workers to try and minimise the spread of disease.  

For an unmarried woman to be talking about sex so openly was seen by many people as deeply immoral and she was accused of encouraging soldiers to visit sex workers. As a result, any mention of her or her organisation was banned in New Zealand newspapers and some women's organisations campaigned against her.

After the war Rout remained in Britain, where she published a book on contraception, which was also banned in New Zealand. She died on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands in 1936.

Listen to historian and author Jane Tolerton talk to Kim Hill about Rout and her work.

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Image: Ettie Annie Rout. Ref: PAColl-4832. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22681999.

Catalogue Reference 6373

Year 1990


Interviewer: Kim Hill, Morning Report, RNZ National

Excerpt: 00:02:17

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