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Children - the nation's future

Woman at the bedside of a child, about 1920
Woman at the bedside of a child, about 1920 circa 1920, Berry & Co (1901–1931), Wellington. Purchased 1998 with New Zealand Lottery Grants Board funds. Te Papa

Early in the 20th century, children were lauded as the nation's future – but their lives were often endangered by epidemics. Schools had to be closed to stop the spread of infectious diseases like polio.

Tuberculosis was another life-threatening disease. It was described as a 'national menace' and caused concerns about national efficiency. There was no known cure, and sufferers were recommended fresh air and bed rest. Maori were affected at a much higher rate than Pakeha (European New Zealanders).

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