Crèches and early childcare

Children at Wellington Railway Station crèche, 1937
Wellington Railway Station crèche, 1937

In 2012, the Aubert Childcare Centre in Wellington shut its doors for the last time. An asbestos-riddled roof, and prohibitive replacement costs, forced the Sisters of Compassion in Island Bay to bring down the curtain (or habit) on New Zealand's longest-running crèche, started in 1903 by Mother Mary Joseph Aubert.

Voluntary organisations set up the first crèches in New Zealand in the late 19th century. These struggled financially and were disliked by those who worried that their existence would encourage some single and working mothers to abandon their children. Childcare ventures operated by religious orders such as Aubert's Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion had more success because they fell under a wider mantle of charity and assistance to the poor.

Before (and in many cases, after) the establishment of formal childcare centres, parents relied on family, friends and neighbours to care for young children. While wealthy families could employ nannies who cared for children at home, working mothers often had to send their children to ‘baby farmers’ – private caregivers who looked after children in their own homes. While most of them provided adequate care, several high-profile cases of child abuse tarnished the reputation of paid caregivers. 

Not until the second half of the 20th century did childcare shake off the taint of charity, poverty and family dysfunction and become a full-day service catering for the needs of both children and mothers. 

Lack of support

At the beginning of the 20th century, single mothers in New Zealand, even those who were widowed or divorced, received little help. The government did not want to be seen to be supporting illegitimacy, and state assistance was limited. In addition to financial hardship, unmarried mothers faced moral condemnation and social rejection.

Baby farming

‘Baby farming’ was the practice of caring for children for a fee. Concerns about private childcare providers emerged during the late 19th century as overseas cases of child deaths in care were reported in New Zealand newspapers. The trial and execution of New Zealand baby farmers Minnie Dean and Daniel Cooper for child murder further damaged the reputation of paid caregivers.

Those without family support had few options. The alternatives – a hasty marriage, illegal abortion, or infanticide – carried huge risks. Less drastic choices included paying private carers or giving up children to the care of the state or religious institutions.

By the 1900s, the ‘problem’ of child illegitimacy was at the forefront of public debate. An article in The Press entitled ‘The Social Cancer’ provoked a flurry of letters to the editor reflecting on its causes and suggesting remedies. [1] While many thought that single mothers should not have things ‘too easy’, some expressed this view more strongly than others. Thomas Norris, secretary of the North Canterbury Charitable Aid Board, claimed that the ‘country was getting overrun with bastards whose erring mothers were only too keen to divest themselves of their natural responsibilities.’ [2]

While assistance for mothers remained focused on punishment and reform, more interest began to be shown in the ‘innocent children’ whose illegitimacy resulted in hardship. [3] In the 1890s, alarm about the declining European birth rate saw illegitimate children begin to receive better care and attention. The motivation for the Infant Life Protection Act 1893, and its subsequent revisions, was the comparatively high mortality rate of illegitimate children. Revelations of neglect in private care captured public interest and aroused emotion.

The first successful crèches

One of the first attempts to establish a crèche was made in Dunedin in 1879. Its advocates emphasised the need for quality care and nutrition. Children would be ‘rescued from the danger’ of the streets – and saved from the bleak prospect of government-run industrial schools. Mothers could keep their children rather than giving them up to unscrupulous and exploitative baby farmers. Parental ties were, in the opinion of one letter-writer, ‘the chief inducement to moral well-doing of a human nature.’ [4]

Despite enthusiasm for the concept of a crèche, the Dunedin project failed to get off the ground, possibly because of niggling discomfort with the idea that it would enable women with young children to work outside the home. Any move that accepted or normalised this practice, however charitable its intent, was going to face an uphill struggle.

In Queen Victoria’s Jubilee year of 1887, Women’s Christian Temperance Union President Anne Ward and other Auckland society ladies established the Jubilee Kindergarten and crèche (also referred to as the Auckland City Kindergarten and crèche). This crèche, or nursery, charged just 3d a day (equivalent to $2.40 in 2015) to care for infants aged between six weeks and two years whose mothers had ‘to go out to earn their living’. Ward explained its goals:

There are many mothers in this city who plead as an excuse for not working, and for drawing Government rations, that they can do nothing for themselves while hampered with their babies. The crêche will relieve them of the latter difficulty, as their children will be well taken care of during the day for a nominal sum, while [they are] away earning their livelihood. [5]

The group obtained permission from the city council to use the former library building in High Street, which it converted into suitable premises for the kindergarten and crèche. Within a few months Matron Chase had overseen the care of nearly 50 infants, with an average of three on any one day.

When critics claimed that women who did not really need help were taking advantage of the facility, those more familiar with its clients argued that this was a ‘misunderstanding’. Bishop Cowie commented at the annual meeting of subscribers in 1890:

He had seen in the crèche an infant whose parents were dead, and who was paid for by its sisters, two hard-working young women. The latter were enabled, by leaving the child at the crèche, to go to work. [6]

With the support of subscribers, the crèche operated successfully for more than a decade, catering for between 500 and 1000 infants each year. It closed in 1899 because of unforeseen circumstances and the withdrawal of an annual grant it had received from James Dilworth (and later, from his estate).

Crèches and kindergartens

The first crèches were set up to care for the children of working mothers. Kindergarten childcare centres, on the other hand, helped prepare children for school, promoting education through play and games. Run on a part-day basis, kindergartens offered support for stay-at-home mothers. Progressive individuals began establishing kindergarterns in New Zealand's main centres from the 1870s. To assist those who could not afford private pre-school education, the New Zealand Free Kindergarten Union opened its first ‘kindy’ in Dunedin in 1889. Kindergartens remained the main providers of pre-school education until the late 20th century.

In 1888 members of the group approached women in Ponsonby and Freemans Bay and with their support established a sister organisation, the Auckland West Kindergarten and crèche. This facility, based in a building in Howe Street owned by the Board of Education, closed in 1894 after attendance fell.

Further south, the Home of Compassion Crèche opened in Buckle Street, Wellington in 1903. Set up by Mother Mary Joseph Aubert and her Sisters of Compassion, it offered hope to mothers who could not rely on husbands or extended family for support. The criterion for admission was genuine need and there was no charge for using the crèche. The Home of Compassion Crèche was much more successful than other early New Zealand crèches because it was part of a wider programme of social services offered by the Sisters of Compassion; these also included a soup kitchen and a home for incurables. Aubert cultivated a network of influential benefactors and cleverly emphasised that public donations supported a range of good works, not just the crèche. This approach worked – when the Sisters finally closed their childcare centre (by now in Island Bay) in 2012, it was the longest-running crèche in New Zealand.

Following in the footsteps of the Sisters of Compassion, the Anglican Order of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd opened the Grey Street Crèche in Auckland in 1906. This was run along similar lines to and with similar motivations as the Home of Compassion. Newspapers extolled the health and welfare benefits for the children of working mothers. The Auckland Star proclaimed that the new crèche would keep children out of the 'disease-infected gutter'. Washing, clothing and feeding them would also help meet their parents’ aspirations to middle-class values. [7]

A reporter visiting the crèche painted a picture of domestic bliss, with cheerful babbling and chubby little arms waving. The crèche 'was a veritable playland, and the contented sounds still followed us from the warm bright room. The only pity seemed to be that such happy babies should ever be taken away.' [8] This last observation hinted that the care children received at the crèche was a model for mothers to emulate in the home.

The Sisters at Grey Street were quick to emphasise that the object of the crèche was 'to help the mothers, not relieve them of what Nature intends them to have.' [9] Like their Wellington counterparts, they rejected attempts by mothers not compelled by absolute need to place their children at the crèche. The 1913 annual report of the Order of the Good Shepherd hammered home this point:

We refuse to take as resident children many infants. The utter callousness shown by parents whose only desire is to be rid of their children is one of the ugliest features of present-day life. The number of parents who seem without natural affection, and who do not want to give themselves the opportunity of loving their children, is appalling. [10]

A newspaper article highlighted one example:

There are numerous instances in the experience of the sisters, a reporter was informed last evening, of women attempting to secure the protection of the creche for their infants in order that they may be free for pleasure. On one occasion a young woman gave her children into the care of the sisters, and when questioned frankly told them that she was on her way to a skating rink. [11]

In 1913, the Heni Materoa Children’s Home opened in Gisborne. Planned and paid for by the Cook County Women’s Guild, it replaced a small six-bedroom crèche built by the Guild in 1909. Lady Hēni Materoa Carroll, wife of the politician Sir James Carroll, was 'a generous supporter of the cause', raising funds and providing land for the new building, which was then named after her. [12] The children’s home provided both day care and longer-term care, and complemented a maternity home established by the Guild in 1910.

During the First World War, the Women’s National Reserve formed clubs for the wives and widows of men who had gone overseas. In 1917, a Wellington soldiers’ and sailors’ wives club began to meet regularly in a rented flat in Courtenay Place. The temporary clubrooms hosted a small crèche run by the wives. They were seen as a very deserving group, and public support for the crèche was strong. Mr Tripp, chair of the War Relief Association, declared in 1919 that a permanent crèche 'must be established'; 'such relief was in no sense charity.' [13] It was a valuable service that would give women the support and rest they needed to be better mothers.

Drop-in crèches

In the 1920s and 1930s, middle-class families came to embrace the crèche concept. While the twin principles of motherhood and duty remained strong, different expressions of them emerged. Society began to view motherhood as a skilled craft, with every woman deserving quality childcare services to support her in this role. Children were the future strength of the nation; therefore, it was imperative that mothers received practical support to help them raise strong and productive citizens. [14]

Drop-in crèches at which women could leave their children while they went shopping or ran other errands soon began appearing. In Wellington, the Women’s National Reserve Residential Nursery, established in 1920, allowed women to 'leave their little ones with an easy mind while they went to do their shopping or transacted in other business or whatever it was they wanted to do.' [15] Another Wellington crèche, the Citizens’ Day Nursery (1921), catered for working mothers as well those who needed a few hours of childcare to shop or perform other domestic tasks. 'Mothers would be able to leave their children in competent hands while she does the family washing, makes the jam, or goes shopping, or anything else she may wish to do that could be done more successfully free from the care of her little ones.' [16]

When Wellington Railway Station opened in 1937, its facilities for patrons included a sunny rooftop crèche. Childcare had shaken off its early associations of poverty and charity and become a public service.

Plunket Society

Founded in 1907, the Plunket Society advised mothers on the feeding and care of infants. Crèches and nurseries began to adopt Plunket-approved methods, and drew legitimacy from their provision of Plunket-approved cots and Plunket-trained nurses.

Inspired by a similar crèche in Melbourne, the Wellington Railway Station crèche offered mothers with a valid train ticket the convenience of leaving their chldren in safe hands while they shopped in town. The staff included a kindergarten teacher and a Plunket nurse. Plunket cots were available for infants, and every provision was made for the care and entertainment of the young charges. Women from several child welfare organisations turned out for the opening, as did Acting Prime Minister Peter Fraser. Fraser’s granddaughter is reported to have given her approval too, playing happily with a teddy bear and testing the scooters and tricycles. [17] An accompanying Evening Post report described the sunshine, safety features and play items at the purpose-built facility. From the coathangers – 'each adorned with some animal' – and the animal-print curtains to the sandpit with its 'entrancing silver sand', everything met with the reporter’s approval. [18]

Case study: The Home of Compassion Crèche

In early 1903, newspapers began to report on plans for Mother Mary Joseph Aubert's newest venture – the Home of Compassion Crèche. In October, an Evening Post reporter inspected the new premises. With the concept still new to New Zealand, the article included an explanation of its function.

The creche, or daylight home for babies, is intended to help [working mothers] in their difficulty.… [B]abes under the age of three years whose parents find themselves hampered with the care of them, and are prevented from earning a livelihood, will be received and delivered back again. [19]

A room 'piled high with small wicker cots or cradles, mattresses, and pillows' stood ready awaiting its charges, as did 'piles of new baby clothing'. The article praised the Sisters’ tireless charitable work, and eagerly anticipated the opening of the crèche. It also assured readers that 'proper safeguards against imposition' were in place. Only truly deserving mothers were eligible to use the service. They were required to give at least a week’s notice of their intention to do so, to 'enable enquiries to be made.' [20]

A city in need

When Mother Aubert arrived in Wellington in 1899, the city was raw and still developing. Disease and ill-health stalked the cramped workers’ cottages of inner-city Te Aro, where Aubert established her mission. The provision of clean drinking water and the safe disposal of rubbish and sewerage were daily issues – newspapers described with almost salacious delight the ‘squalor, dirt and disease’ of Wellington’s slums. 

Further reports appeared describing the crèche and the Sisters’ work with the children. One of the Sisters described the daily routine. 'We undress [the children] when they come, put on our clothes, and let them play about. Then we wash and dress them for their mothers in the evening. All the children’s clothes are washed by the sisters.' [21] In a 1905 letter to Sister Carmel, Aubert noted the difficulties presented by all this washing, especially in winter. 'The washing every day is terrible and the drying is as bad', she wrote. 'We have had very stormy weather.' [22] There was space for up to 34 children – twice that number if the weather was fine. No fee was charged, but a contribution to the cost of milk was gratefully accepted.

The ‘experiment’, as it was described, appears to have been successful from the beginning, in part thanks to the wider focus of the work of the Sisters of Compassion. The crèche was not their flagship project but one of a number of community initiatives, including a foundling home, a home for incurables, and a soup kitchen. Aubert claimed that, far from eroding the ties and duties of motherhood, as some feared, the crèche was supporting these sacred principles. The service ensured that working mothers were only separated from their children during working hours, whereas without it they may have had to give them up altogether. Aubert was firm in her support for the sanctity of marriage and the mother’s role as primary caregiver. When accepting children to the foundling home in Island Bay, Sister Moller recalled, Aubert had 'not a particle of sympathy' for married mothers who had deserted their husbands, and would often startle young sisters 'by the force with which she would say: We are here to uphold the Sacrament of Matrimony, not to pull it down!' At the crèche, the Sisters assessed admissions on a case-by-case basis; only those in real need were welcomed, and mothers seen to be avoiding their natural maternal duty were firmly rebuffed.

The fact that the Sisters did not insist on any payment for use of the crèche emphasised both the charitable aspect of the project and the tough economic circumstances in which some mothers found themselves. Newspapers praised their efforts to help the 'sick, the distressed, [and] the unfortunate, and the public felt easy supporting the Sisters’ overarching mission of mercy and charity, trusting their judgement on the forms that this took.'[23]

A new building opens

In 1914, the Home of Compassion Crèche moved into a new purpose-built home. By then the old wooden cottages it occupied were in urgent need of replacement. The necessity for a new building was also an opportunity to reaffirm the value of the Sisters’ work with young children by creating a facility that embodied the latest ideas about best practice in childcare. This would be no shabby option for those who had no other choice, but a first-rate facility providing quality care. The papers proudly reported the opening of 'a creche that is a creche – a building especially adapted for the work.'[24] The attention to health and welfare was praised.

The chief feature inside is the large, well-lighted, sunny play-room, where the babies may play in their cradles or about the floor under hygienic conditions of the best. [There is a] sleeping apartment for tired babies … in the front of the building … two rooms … for the use of the babies, a large up-to-date bathroom with special facilities for bathing infants, a small pantry for the preparation of their food, and the usual sanitary conveniences. At the back, and fully exposed to the sun for the best part of the day, is a wide glazed-in verandah … an ideal play-ground for the youngsters in suitable weather… All the angles have been rounded off in hospital style. There are no skirtings or architraves, and everything has been thought out … to reduce dust and dirt to a minimum. The rooms are lofty, well-lighted, and especially well ventilated. [25]

The building was 'a simple Tudor-Gothic design' by the architect John Swan. Its masonry construction expressed 'sturdy permanence', while the small crenellated parapet and decorative crest added an 'air of grand formality.' Domestic in scale, the building incorporated several homely features. Visitors entered a small enclosed porch with bench seating and hooks on which to hang coats; a large bay window let sun into the playroom. By the 1950s a garden area incorporating a small pergola had been added behind the building.

Faith and half a crown

Legend has it that Mother Aubert arrived in Wellington to begin her mission work in 1899 with just half a crown (2s 6d) in her pocket. To fund welfare projects such as the crèche, she cultivated a network of prominent and well-heeled Wellingtonians. In 1910, Aubert’s supporters marked the 50th anniversary of her arrival in New Zealand. The governor, Lord Islington, presented her with a cheque for £2000 (equivalent to $325,000 in 2015) at the Wellington Town Hall, and hundreds of people attended a fundraising fête at Newtown Park.

With public attention focused on the First World War, which had broken out two months earlier, the new building was opened with little fanfare. Even so, Mayor John Luke, Wellington Central MP Francis Fisher and prominent supporters such as Opposition leader Sir Joseph Ward attended; Prime Minister William Massey sent his apologies.

Mother Aubert was in Rome, on a mission to secure papal recognition of her Order. She wrote home to her Sisters, eager for news, 'I do not wonder at the crèche being condemned', she wrote. 'I expected it every day. Of course a new building must be in bricks…' She urged them to think beyond present needs to future requirements, and plan a building that would prove to be a sound investment. [26] The project was a major test for the Sisters. Its successful completion in Aubert's absence gave them confidence that the Order could outlive its founder, who was by now nearly 80.

Delayed by the war, Aubert was away from New Zealand for six years. When she did return it was with the hard-won Decree of Praise triumphantly in her hand. The Decree gave official recognition to the Order of the Sisters of Compassion, freeing them from the 'often frustrating and stifling control of the local diocese.' [27] It authorised their current projects, including work with young children and 'foundlings' – children with physical or mental disabilities, or who had been born out of wedlock. It also backed up Aubert’s 'unswerving resolution that the work of the Sisters of Compassion would be without distinction of sex or religion’. [28]


Little is known about the women who used the crèche in its early years. The social stigma attached to unmarried mothers meant that secrecy and confidentiality were of utmost importance. When a woman applied to use the crèche, the Sisters made discreet enquiries to establish that her need was genuine. This personal information remained confidential, even when this led to difficulties with government agencies which sought to regulate childcare and fostering arrangements. While the state aimed to reform unmarried mothers by letting them feel the full weight of their shame and responsibility, Aubert believed in giving women a second chance.

By keeping their identity secret, Aubert allowed women to maintain their place in respectable society. The Sisters kept in touch with the mothers of children in their care, who were free to reclaim them if their circumstances allowed it. The existence of the crèche made it easier for women to keep their babies rather than giving them up to state or private carers. Having run a foundling home for many years, Aubert was all too aware of the pressures on unmarried mothers, and the lengths to which they were sometimes driven. Illegitimate children were statistically more likely to die in infancy, but Aubert accepted even the sickliest babies at the Sisters’ foundling home despite the risk to her medical reputation. Writing to the Education Department, which regulated fostering arrangements, she drew attention to the possible fate of babies, and in some cases mothers, had they not entered the Sisters’ care. 'The statistics of death are most misleading,' she writes, 'because the Registrar-General has never had, and never will have, the returns of the sea, of the rivers, of the ponds, of the ditches, of the lonely roadsides, of the sewers etc.' [29]

Care versus education

While the physical well-being of the children in their care was paramount, Mother Aubert and her Sisters did not neglect their social and spiritual education. For Aubert, divisions between care and education were arbitrary. Her writings emphasised the importance of developing independence and self-reflection in children. She believed that education began at birth, and that teachers should lead by example. Aubert objected to corporal punishment; teachers should be firm, but also kind and just. [30] This philosophy must have continued to inform the management of the crèche, as inspectors in the 1960s noted that the children appeared to be 'a particularly happy group who respond cheerfully to kindly, gentle, but firm management'. 'Without a doubt', they concluded, it was 'the best run day nursery in Wellington.' [31]

Relationship with the Plunket Society

The Home of Compassion was one of the first institutions in Wellington to adopt and make a success of the Plunket Society health programme. Despite this, they did not always enjoy an easy relationship with Plunket’s founder, Dr Frederic Truby King. Although Aubert was involved with the Society for the Protection of the Health of Women and Children (later called the Plunket Society) from its foundation in 1907, it was not until about 1910 that King paid a visit to the Home of Compassion. This first meeting did not go well.

Complaining that the feet of some of the infants were cold because of the lack of hot-water bottles, King asked if Aubert was raising them to be Arctic explorers. While acknowledging the Sisters’ 'great deal of good will', he thought them in 'want of experience.' [32] Despite King's concerns, the Sisters had cared for young children for many years; they received nursing training and sought the advice of doctors. 

The question of artificial feeding was another sticking point. The Home of Compassion had in its care many very young babies, who were often sickly because of the circumstances of their birth. The crèche, too, cared for infants whom it was necessary to bottle-feed. King was a zealous exponent of breastfeeding, and a crèche full of bottle-fed babies was far from his ideal. Exasperated with this attitude, one young Sister remarked, 'I’m praying that God will enlighten somebody – even Dr Truby King – on how these bottle-fed infants should be fed!' [33] Despite their differences, King became a regular visitor to the Home of Compassion. [34]

Recent history

Economic and social conditions changed greatly during the 20th century, but women’s need for childcare was a constant. Pressures on young unmarried mothers to give up their babies for adoption remained strong into the 1960s. The Home of Compassion Crèche, along with others of its kind, continued to offer unmarried mothers whose families were unwilling, or unable, to support them an important means of care that allowed them to undertake paid work while keeping their babies.


In 1973, the Domestic Purposes Benefit became available to sole parents. Like the previous limited financial support, its provision provoked anxiety about the distinction between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ parents. Women still faced conflicting pressures to care for their children at home and to support themselves financially.

The crèche operated at Buckle Street until 1973, when it moved to nearby Sussex Street because of planned widening of State Highway 1 around the Basin Reserve. The new three-storey premises had space for 50 children, more than the old building had been able to accommodate. [35] Restored in 2014, the Buckle Street crèche building now sits within the Pukeahu National War Memorial Park. In 2016 it reopened as the Queen Elizabeth II Pukeahu Education Centre.

In 1995, the crèche moved to Island Bay and became the Aubert Childcare Centre. The need for costly repair work on the roof prompted the closure of the Centre in 2012. This decision was influenced by the desire of the Sisters of Compassion to refocus on their core mission of 'caring for the frail aged, the sick, the poor and the disadvantaged.' [36]

The closure dismayed parents, whose heartfelt disappointment demonstrated the high regard in which they held the Centre. Parents valued its history, its values, and the quality of the care and education it provided.

Further information

This article was written by Cindy Jemmett and produced by the NZHistory team.


Books, articles and primary documents

  • Archives New Zealand, ‘Historical Publications (Advertising and Publicity) - Wellington Railway Station, New Zealand - Modern Services for Visitors,’ ABIN W3337/147 (R19599394)
  • Karen Astwood and Alison Dangerfield, ‘Home of Compassion Crèche (Former), Wellington’, New Zealand Historic Places Trust, 2010
  • Suzanne Aubert, Jessie Munro and Bernadette Wrack, Letters on the go: the correspondence of Suzanne Aubert, Bridget Williams Books, Wellington, 2009
  • Kerry Corinne Bethell, ‘“Not [just] for a Name That We Plead”: Fashioning the Ideological Origins of Early Kindergarten in Dunedin and Wellington, New Zealand, 1870–1913’, PhD thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 2008
  • Maureen Birchfield, Looking for answers: a life of Elsie Locke, Canterbury University Press, Christchurch, 2009
  • Peter Cooke, ‘Mt Cook – a history’, unpublished report for Wellington City Council, 2006
  • Lianne Cox, ‘Home of Compassion Crèche, 18 Buckle Street, Wellington. Relocation / Heritage Management Plan’, Studio Pacific Architecture
  • Bronwyn Dalley, Family matters: child welfare in twentieth-century New Zealand, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 1998
  • Adrian Humphris and G. Mew, Ring around the city: Wellington’s new suburbs, 1900-1930, Steele Roberts, Wellington, 2009
  • F. Truby King, Feeding and care of baby, Whitcombe & Tombs, Christchurch, 1946
  • F. Truby King, The expectant mother, and baby’s first month: hints to fathers and mothers, Department of Health, Wellington, 1925
  • Pat Lawlor, Old Wellington days: an intimate diary to which Is appended the ships of Wellington, the Wellington of Katherine Mansfield and other literary associations, also James Cowan and his Wellington place-names, Whitcombe & Tombs, Wellington, 1959
  • Helen May, Mind that child: childcare as a social and political issue in New Zealand, Blackberry Press, Upper Hutt, 1985
  • Helen May,The discovery of early childhood, NZCER Press, Wellington, 2013
  • Helen May, When women’s rights have come to stay oh who will rock the cradle? early childhood care and education and Women’s suffrage 1893-1993: the hand that rocks the cradle should also rock the boat, Waikato University, Hamilton, 1993
  • Sister Angela Moller, ‘Reminiscences of Mother Mary Joseph Aubert’, vol. 4, Sisters of Compassion Archives
  • Jessie Munro, The story of Suzanne Aubert, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 1996
  • New Zealand Transport Association, National War Memorial Park Project, Appendix
  • Erik Olssen, ‘Truby King and the Plunket Society: An Analysis of a Prescriptive Ideology’, New Zealand Journal of History, vol. 15, no. 1, 1981, pp. 3-23
  • Patrick Marie Rafter, Never let go! the remarkable story of Mother Aubert, A.H. and A.W. Reed, Wellington, 1972
  • Margaret Tennant, ‘Maternity and Morality: Homes for Single Mothers 1890-1930’, New Zealand Women’s Studies Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, 1985, pp. 28-49
  • Margaret Tennant, ‘Mother Mary Joseph Aubert, 1835-1926,’ in C. Macdonald et al. (eds), The book of New Zealand women ko kui ma te kaupapa, Bridget Williams Books, Wellington, 1991, pp. 29-32
  • The Plunket magazine: a journal of motherhood and mothercraft, Society for the Health of Women and Children, Hastings, 1915
  • Redmer Yska, Wellington: biography of a city, Reed, Auckland, 2006
  • Wellington City Archives, City District No. 9840 Building Plan, 24.4.1914, 22 Buckle Street [18 Buckle Street], Crèche, 00053:178:9840


[1] Press, 6 April 1900, p. 2; 7 July 1900, p. 5.

[2] Margaret Tennant, 'Maternity and Morality: Homes for Single Mothers 1890-1930', New Zealand Women's Studies Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, 1985, p. 30.

[3] Evening Post, 9 May 1902, p. 5.

[4] Otago Daily Times, 7 July 1879, p. 3.

[5] New Zealand Herald, 8 April 1887, p. 5.

[6] New Zealand Herald, 21 June 1890, p. 5.

[7] Auckland Star, 4 March 1908, p. 6.

[8] New Zealand Herald, 26 May 1906, p. 1.

[9] Auckland Star, 4 March 1908, p. 6.

[10] Auckland Star, 10 October 1913, p. 2.

[11] Evening Post, 11 October 1913, p. 6.

[12] Poverty Bay Herald, 2 May 1913, p. 5.

[13] Evening Post, 29 March 1919, p. 5.

[14] Evening Post, 1 March 1920, p. 7.

[15] Dominion, 29 March 1919, p. 9.

[16] Evening Post, 1 March 1920, p. 7.

[17] Evening Post, 10 July 1937, p. 18.

[18] Evening Post, 19 June 1937, p. 18.

[19] Evening Post, 23 October 1903, p. 5.

[20] Evening Post, 23 October 1903, p. 5.

[21] Sister Angela Moller, 'Reminiscences of Mother Mary Joseph Aubert', vol. 4, Sisters of Compassion Archives, p. 63.

[22] Suzanne Aubert, Jessie Munro and Bernadette Wrack, Letters on the go: the correspondence of Suzanne Aubert, Bridget Williams Books, Wellington, 2009, p. 240.

[23] Evening Post, 23 October 1903, p. 5.

[24] Dominion, 23 September 1914, p. 8.

[25] Dominion, 23 September 1914, p. 8.

[26] Aubert et al., p. 340.

[27] Karen Astwood and Alison Dangerfield, ‘Home of Compassion Crèche (Former), Wellington’, New Zealand Historic Places Trust, 2010, p. 13.

[28] Jessie Munro, The story of Suzanne Aubert, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 1996, p. 368.

[29] Aubert et al., p. 281.

[30] Aubert’s teaching principles supplied by Sr Josephine Gorman via personal correspondence.

[31] New Zealand Department of Education – Child Welfare Officers’ Initial Report on Application for Registration and Licence, 1962. Archives NZ, ABEP 7749 W4262 1531 25/9 (CC4) pt 1; J.H. Lucas to Superintendent, 21 April 1967. Quoted in Karen Astwood and Alison Dangerfield, ‘Home of Compassion Crèche (Former), Wellington’, Heritage New Zealand, 2010.

[32] Moller, p. 480.

[33] Moller, p. 491.

[34] Moller, p. 480.

[35] Astwood and Dangerfield, p. 18.

[36] Dominion Post, 16 October 2012.

How to cite this page

'Crèches and early childcare', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 12-Jun-2023