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Dr Truby King - Plunket founder

Sir Truby King, C.M.G.
Sir Truby King, C.M.G. circa 1935, Tripe, M. E. R. (1870–1939). Gift of Karitane Products Society, 1936. Te Papa

In 1907, Dr Frederic Truby King (1858–1938) founded Plunket (the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society) in response to high infant death rates. Its motto was 'to help the mothers and save the babies' – and it did, albeit in a regimented way.

King advocated a scientific approach to childcare: routine, fresh air, good nutrition. Caring for his adopted daughter, who wasn't thriving, influenced his thinking and prompted him to develop a 'humanised' milk formula. A desire to improve national efficiency underpinned his reforms, which middle-class women enthusiastically adopted.

Today, Plunket continues to support children's health and welfare, with the help of women volunteers. The organisation is partly government-funded but also relies on donations. Its child-rearing philosophy has evolved with the times.

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