Image Mother Aubert's medicines, c1895

TLF ID R4201

These are two glass medicine bottles and three cardboard boxes, dating from about 1895, used to package Mother Mary Joseph Aubert's herbal remedies. The two bottles, each with a cork stopper and a large label on the front and sides, contain 'Paramo', a remedy for liver and kidney complaints, and 'Karana', a general tonic. The boxes are labelled 'Paramo', 'Karana', and 'Wanena', and contain treatments for cuts, bruises and wounds. The labels and one box have blue printing, while the other two boxes are orange and yellow-brown. They all have printed text, for example, 'Mother Mary Joseph Aubert's, Wanena, Registered 1894, Prepared only and exclusively by herself under her supervision, Price 2/6, This Preparation is purely vegetable'. The bottles are 11.1 cm and 11.9 cm in height; the 'Paramo' box measures 15.0 cm x 5.6 cm x 3.5 cm, the 'Wanena' box 14.7 cm x 5.7 cm x 3.5 cm and the 'Karana' box 15.0 cm x 5.7 cm x 3.5 cm.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset illustrates treatments produced by the nursing nun Suzanne Aubert (1835 1926), who was known in New Zealand as Mother Mary Joseph Aubert - born near Lyon in France, Aubert had permission from her father, a lawyer, to train as a nurse, but she later defied her family by sailing to New Zealand as a missionary recruit; over several decades she established a religious order that eventually received papal approval as the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion.
  • It shows packaged remedies that resulted from Aubert's work with Mäori - Aubert was one of the first Europeans to appreciate the medicinal properties of New Zealand's native plants; she learnt to speak Mäori and absorbed the teachings of Mäori women who were tohunga rongoä (healing specialists); she began selling her herbal remedies in 1891, creating her own names for them and utilising her Mäori knowledge and her early training in chemistry and botany.
  • It is evidence of Aubert's enterprising nature - from Auckland, she moved to the Hawke's Bay area and then to Hiruhärama (Jerusalem) on the Whanganui River (in the south-west of the North Island) where she ran two schools and a dispensary, taking in the sick and foundlings; she supported these activities in various ways, including growing produce, selling medicines, taking gifts in kind, and by an annual grant from central government through her friend, the Native Minister Donald McLean.
  • It is an example of the practice of quackery - in the 19th century, so long as one did not claim the title or degree of doctor, anyone could practise medicine, and this was commonly known as quackery; the 'cures' were known as patent medicines and were commonly advertised.
  • It helps illustrate advertising styles of that time - as there were not many doctors, skilled amateurs helped out in times of need, and newspapers were full of advertisements for patent medicines; the advertisements focused on the all-natural, exclusive qualities of the medicines, and thus these 'cure-alls' were found in most settler households, remote or otherwise.
  • It shows examples of patent medicine - from the 1880s, the reputation of quackery and charlatanism was hanging over the purveyors of many patent medicines and their customers were labelled as gullible; many of these patent medicines, even those for children, were known to contain large quantities of narcotics, and a general fear of addiction was growing; this directly led to the introduction in New Zealand of the Quackery Prevention Act in 1908.
  • It points to Aubert's adaptability - when the Quackery Prevention Act was passed in 1908, Aubert is said to have committed her medicines back to the Whanganui River; from about this time she relied solely on 'Providence' for financial support, saying, 'It is my bank and it has never failed me yet.'.

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Suzanne Aubert
  • Description: Author
  • Contributor
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
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  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Person: Suzanne Aubert
  • Description: Author
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
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  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
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  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements