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Ettie Rout

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Ettie Rout
Rout from the frontispiece of Safe Marriage: A Return to Sanity
Ettie Annie Rout

24 February 1877
Launceston, Tasmania
Died17 September 1936(1936-09-17) (aged 59)
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
Other namesEttie Hornibrook
Known forpreventing sexually transmitted disease amongst soldiers

Ettie Annie Rout (24 February 1877 – 17 September 1936) was a Tasmanian-born New Zealander whose work among servicemen in Paris and the Somme during World War I made her a war hero among the French, yet through the same events she became persona non grata in New Zealand. She married Frederick Hornibrook on 3 May 1920, after which she was Ettie Hornibrook. They had no children and later separated. She died in 1936, and was buried in the Cook Islands.


She was born in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia, but she was raised in Wellington, New Zealand from 1884. After leaving school, she became a shorthand typist for commissions of inquiry and later the Supreme Court (now the High Court, not to be confused with the present Supreme Court). Biographers believe this job gave her a wide range of experiences on social issues. She was later a reporter, businessperson, writer and a campaigner on sexually transmitted infections.

After founding a volunteer nursing group during World War I, the New Zealand Volunteer Sisterhood, Rout was made aware of the prevalence of STI among servicemen. By 1917, the New Zealand Army had made free distribution of her safe sex kit compulsory. It was for her work inspecting brothels in Paris and in the Somme, that she was decorated by the French. In 1917 she and several other New Zealand nurses were Mentioned in Despatches by General Sir Archibald Murray.[1]

In New Zealand, her exploits were considered such that her name, on pain of a £100 fine, could not be published. However, her activities could be published.[citation needed]

Similar ironies were found overseas—her 1922 book, Safe Marriage: A Return to Sanity, was banned in New Zealand, but published in both Australia and Britain. In the latter, it was a best-seller, yet a bishop called her "the wickedest woman in Britain".[2][3] In 1922, the British Medical Journal recommended the book for medical men and women but noted that "many readers will disagree with the author's point of view, and some will feel grave misgivings about the effect of her teaching; but none can doubt the sincerity of her purpose."[4]

Rout and her husband Frederick Arthur Hornibrook were members of Arbuthnot Lane's New Health Society.[5]

Death and legacy[edit]

Rout died age 59 as the result of a self-administered quinine overdose in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands[6] following her sole postwar return to New Zealand in 1936. She is interred at an Avarua church cemetery. In 1983 an episode of the New Zealand television series Pioneer Women dramatised her story.[7] In 1992, Jane Tolerton wrote her biography, and more recently, she has been more critically perceived as a "White Australasia" apologist in Philippa Levine's account of contagious disease legislation within the late nineteenth century British Empire.[8][9] In 2023, an ANZAC delegation to Rarotonga unveiled a memorial in Rout's honour, calling her a "Guardian Angel of the ANZACs" and recognising Rout's contribution to the health of men who served in World War I.[10] In 2024 a painting of Rout was unveiled in Parliament, which will hang in the Beehive.[11]

Selected publications[edit]

  • Safe Marriage: A Return to Sanity (1922)
  • Two Years in Paris (1923)
  • Maori Symbolism (1926)
  • Native Diet: With Numerous Practical Recipes (1926)
  • Whole-Meal With Practical Recipes (1927)
  • Stand Up and Slim Down (1934)

See also[edit]

  • Fanny McHugh – Midwife, volunteer nurse, health patrol, social hygiene lecturer


  1. ^ "Mentioned in dispatches". Kai Tiaki. X (4): 199. October 1917. Retrieved 11 November 2023.
  2. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Rout, Ettie Annie
  3. ^ Wyndham, Diana. (2012). Norman Haire and the Study of Sex. Sydney University Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-1743320068
  4. ^ Anonymous. (1922). Notes on Books. The British Medical Journal 1 (3206): 923–923.
  5. ^ Zweiniger-Bargielowska, Ina. (2009). Slimming through the Depression: Obesity and Reducing in Interwar Britain. In D. J. Oddy, P. J. Atkins and V. Amilien. The Rise of Obesity in Europe: A Twentieth Century Food History. Ashgate. pp. 177–191. ISBN 978-0-754-67696-6
  6. ^ Sparrow, Margaret (June 2013). Celebrating Ettie Rout Sexual Health Pioneer (PDF). New Zealand Sexual Health Society Incorporated. p. 5. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  7. ^ "Pioneer Women – Ettie Rout". Pioneer Women. TVNZ via NZ On Screen. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  8. ^ Philippa Levine (2003), Prostitution, Race and Politics: Policing Venereal Disease in the British Empire:, New York, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-94447-3
  9. ^ Jane Tolerton (1992), Ettie: A Life of Ettie Rout, Auckland, Penguin, ISBN 0-14-017216-5
  10. ^ Martin, Hannah (22 April 2023). "Forgotten Anzac heroine: Memorial unveiled for wartime safer-sex campaigner". Stuff. Retrieved 22 April 2023.
  11. ^ "Sexual health pioneer honoured with painting at Parliament". 1News. Retrieved 10 April 2024.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ettie Rout: New Zealand's safer sex pioneer (2015)

External links[edit]