"the wickedest woman in Britain" was actually a New Zealander

Post date: Jun 07, 2015 9:52:35 AM

One of the advantages of spending lots of time in the car over the last few days is that I have heard some interesting radio interviews. Yesterday I listened to an interview with Margaret Sparrow - who started out as a Fammily Planning doctor in 1967 and is still working aged 80. Worth listening to as she talks about her life http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/saturday/audio/201757346/dame-margaret-sparrow-contraception-historyTowards the end of the interview she talks about her interest in another NZ woman who pioneered sexual health education - Ettie Rout. Ettie was (in)famous for distributing condoms to soldiers in WW1 because she was distressed by the number of soldiers who had sexually transmitted diseases.

Her actions were not welcomed - including being the subject of adebate in the British House of Commons where she was referred to as t"The wickedest woman in Britain". In NZ her name was banned from newspapers - which was particularly ironic given that she protected hundreds of soldiers. The, then, Prime Ministers wife was instrumental in this ban although not before Ettie had managed to get enough publicity for the Govermment to start funding the condom and STD treatment as standard issue for soldiers on leave. Mrs Stout (PMs wife and leader of the Women's Christian Temerance Union published letters like these in the media. The same organisation that was far sighted in supporting and promoting votes for women was blinkered and narrow minded about what the soldiers were doing when not at the front.

Ettie was obviously a woman who felt strongly about doing the right thing even though it made her unpopular. Though this came at a personal cost. Apparently after the war she struggled with depression and ended up committing suicide by taking an overdose of the quinine that she was prescribed for treating malaria.