Sound: brothels in Wellington

Hear Nurse Margaret Macnab talk about brothels in Wellington during the Second World War.


Interviewer: Can you describe the area around Willis St, Taranaki [St]?

Well actually one of the well known houses was, I think it was 318 Upper Willis St, it was almost opposite the end of Abel Smith St. It was a big two-storey building painted dark red in those days, and it was well know to the Americans, in fact at one stage they had a picket right round that house.

Interviewer: A picket?

A picket. Yes, I suppose it was to try and keep the men away from it, I can’t think of any other reason.

Interviewer: This was the military policemen?

Yes, yes and there were a number of girls in there of course, I had to go in and out of there at odd times …

Interviewer: You would have met the owner of the place?

Well, it was the same person who had the two down in Abel Smith St.

Interviewer: She owned three all together?

Yes, yes, and she may have owned even more, but she owned those three anyway.

Interviewer: Did you talk to her much?

Oh yes, when I went to Abel Smith St I often met her and spoke with her. She would sometimes say to me, ‘You know, I think so and so ought to go up and have another test’. I think she really thought it was a sort of a licensed prostitution idea, which of course it wasn’t because New Zealand wasn’t licensed to prostitution and never would be.

Interviewer: So she wasn’t resentful to you at all?

Not at all, oh no …

Interviewer: What kind of a woman was she?

Well … she could have been anybody’s grandmother, really. She was tidily enough dressed and spoke reasonably well – she wasn’t an educated woman.

Interviewer: And how many girls would she have had working for her?

Oh, well, that would be difficult for me to say, because they varied a lot. But they were two-storey houses, they were sordid sort of places you know, particularly the Abel Smith St one, well the other one too, I suppose. But they were sordid sort of houses.

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