Boys diseased in body, and sullied in soul, lost forever as builders of our country” – Mrs Harrison Lee Cowie, in Ashburton Guardian, 8 June, 1917
Mrs Cowie, of the ‘Strength of the Nation’ movement, was referring to boys being held at Quarantine Island (Kamau Taurua) in Otago harbour (Dunedin, New Zealand). At least Mrs Cowie ventured to discuss the subject in public. When the New Zealand House of Representatives were to debate the war regulations relating to venereal disease in July 1916, women were asked to leave the public galleries. Such an indelicate subject was not one for their ears. By this time, ninety soldiers were already ‘segregated on a certain quarantine station’. Proclaiming that he was not the ‘Minister of Morals but the Minister of Health’, George Russell sought measures to prevent the spread of the disease be believed to be ‘rampant’, spread ‘in lavatories, privies, and barbers’ shops, by the use of towels, the kissing of children, the smoking of infected pipes, and in other ways’.