Doctoring the South
Southern Physicians and Everyday Medicine in the Mid-Nineteenth Century
Publication Year: 2004
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
Series: Studies in Social Medicine
Title Page, Copyright
Changing Bodies: ‘‘Experience’’ and the Charm of Drugs 149...
Many people have helped in the research and writing of this book, many more than I can hope to acknowledge here. I am grateful for funding received from the National Library of Medicine (#1r01lmo5334-01), the Indiana University Center for the History of Medicine, and Research and the University Graduate School at Indiana University, Bloomington. Kate Torrey at the University of North Carolina Press kept...
INTRODUCTION: Physicians, Everyday Medicine, and the Country Orthodox Style
This is a study of physicians and medical practice in the southern United States during the mid-nineteenth century. It seeks to describe and interpret the work of ordinary practitioners who struggled to understand disease and care for the sick. For those readers who know little about medical care in this era, I hope to show why it was an important aspect of social and cultural life. For those acquainted with medical history...
PART ONE. CHOOSING MEDICINE
ONE. Men, Schools, and Careers
Becoming an M.D. in the mid-nineteenth-century United States was not an outlandish choice for a young man; it was not like running away to sea. But medicine, straddling the line between trade and profession, filled with economic and therapeutic uncertainties, was anything but the main chance. In the South, before and after the Civil War, the ideal of manly success was to master a flourishing plantation, the traditional...
TWO. The Science of All Life
Just as medical institutions created but also crossed a line between their world and the larger society, so the culture of learning inside schools made orthodoxy less of a realm apart than many students and teachers supposed. Histories of medical education have focused largely on broad institutional and professional changes and have had surprisingly little to say about the everyday modes of teaching and learning. This chapter...
THREE. Starting Out
‘‘I am now in very fact a Doctor and feel fully repaid for all the sacrifices made and privations su√ered,’’ Samuel Van Wyck wrote to his wife in Anderson Court House, South Carolina, after receiving his medical degree in the spring of 1860. Two years earlier, he had quit the tannery business to plumb the mysteries of medicine. ‘‘So far I have done as well as my best friends could wish,’’ he wrote, referring to his teachers and....
PART TWO. DOING MEDICINE
In the early afternoon of November 27, 1873, someone in the G. Wilson E√erson household in Springfield, Louisiana, asked neighbor Washington King to carry a message to Dr. George Colmer. Sometime later, probably the same day, Colmer wrote this entry in his daybook: Nov. 27 (Thursday) About 2 p.m. Washington King arrived at my o≈ce with a request to go...
The solitary rides, the rainy nights, the advice of colleagues, the money owed— all emptied out at the bedside where waited the su√erer. Malady waited there, too, a protean, lively thing, part invader, part nemesis. This chapter seeks to illuminate the everyday diagnostic and therapeutic means physicians employed to make the bedside an orthodox place, and how these e√orts in particular shaped the medical and social...
PART THREE. MAKING MEDICINE
SIX. The Lives of Others
As physicians continued their treatment over time, they were drawn into the lives of others. Simultaneously, they were drawn more fully into the ways the sickroom configured their ‘‘experience’’ into something that was both orthodox and yet intensely personal. Malady’s surprises, the array of therapies, and the social bedside continued to shape everything the physician said and did in a case. To an important extent, as...
SEVEN. Landscape, Race, and Faith
Because so much of what physicians wrote about concerned the drama of individual sickrooms and the complexity of other people’s bodies and lives, it is striking to see M.D.s stepping back from the bedside to speak as critics and advisers with an overview. Yet many ordinary physicians did just that, projecting their experience onto the larger backdrop of society and nature. For many doctors, it seems, speaking...
In multiple ways—in school, at the bedside, at their most professionally expansive—physicians aspired to an overarching orthodoxy while invariably casting it in terms of self, locale, and everyday work. In all of these places and forms of practice, because physicians were such insistent writers of their work, they continually reinscribed the objectivity of someone else’s sickness within the plane of their own subjective...
EPILOGUE: The Civil War and the Persistence of the Country Orthodox Style
In this study, the mid-nineteenth century has been weighted toward the years before the Civil War. And yet, as noted at the outset, this should not imply that the essentials of everyday rural medicine changed sharply after the war. Although the conflict altered the lives of many individual practitioners, most ordinary physicians in the 1870s and 1880s held on to the central expectations and practices at the heart...