Ettie Rout is most famous as a safe sex campaigner in World War 1, setting up a safe sex brothel and designing a safe sex kit which was officially adopted by the NZEF and handed out compulsorily to all soldiers going on leave.
Life in Christchurch
She lived in Christchurch from 1896 to 1915, where she was a strikingly alternative figure for a woman of her time. After becoming a court shorthand writer, she set up her own public typing business with Horace Gilby in Chancery Lane. She reported for the Lyttelton Times, she was a cyclist and physical fitness advocate who wore unorthodox clothes: short skirts, mens’ boots, trousers and no corsets. She had “advanced” ideas on sexuality, was a socialist and freethinker, and was a close friend of the radical thinker Professor A.W. Bickerton.
World War I
During World War I she set up the New Zealand Volunteer Sisterhood and took a group of women to Egypt to care for New Zealand soldiers. Here she encountered the problems with the high rate of venereal disease among the soldiers and launched her controversial campaign.
Post war life
After the war she lived in London and wrote a number of books including Sex and exercise, Safe Marriage (a contraceptive and prophylactic manual for women which was banned in New Zealand, though not in Britain and Australia), a vegetarian cookbook and a book about Māori culture called Māori Symbolism.
She died in the Cook Islands in 1936.
Ettie Rout resources
- Ettie Rout New Zealand Dictionary of Biography
- Tolerton, Jane Ettie: a life of Ettie Rout,1992
- Ettie Rout books by and about Ettie in our collection