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Cultivating Health

Los Angeles Women and Public Health Reform

Jennifer Lisa Koslow

Publication Year: 2009

Cultivating Health, an interdisciplinary chronicle, details women's impact on remaking health policy, despite the absence of government support. Jennifer Lisa Koslow explores community nursing, housing reform, milk sanitation, childbirth, and the campaign against venereal disease in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Los Angeles. She demonstrates how women implemented health care reform and civic programs and highlights women's home health care, urban policy-changing accomplishments, and pays tribute to what would become the model for similar service-based systems in other American centers.

Published by: Rutgers University Press

Series: Critical Issues in Health and Medicine


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pp. vii

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xi

On a cold and blustery Chicago day, the public health nurse trudged up three flights of stairs carrying her black bag. Behind her followed an assistant bearing a large analog baby scale. A premature birth of twins prompted the visit. She came to check on their progress and that of their mother. The twins were undressed, weighed, and their limbs and torsos were examined. A bell was...

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pp. 1-9

In the early 1900s, most women experienced the rigors of childbirth at home. Whom could they call when complications occurred? In the case of a thirty-five-year-old Russian immigrant woman who failed to regain her strength two weeks after giving birth, her family did not call a physician or a midwife. Instead, they asked a social service agency, the Los Angeles College Settlement...

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Chapter 1: Paid for by the Public Purse: Public Health Nursing

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pp. 10-43

On Monday, November 22, 1897, Los Angeles became the first municipality in the United States to fund a public health nurse.1 This action answered a petition made six months earlier by Maude B. Foster, president of the Los Angeles College Settlement Association (LACSA).2 In her request, Foster claimed that the city had already begun taking steps toward acknowledging its responsibility...

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Chapter 2: Public Authority for a Private Program: Housing Reform

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pp. 44-76

Developing a public health nursing program put the Los Angeles College Settlement Association (LACSA) in people’s homes. From these experiences, settlement workers became aware of housing conditions that they considered hazardous to health. Yet, until Jacob Riis visited the city in January 1905 and allegedly said that Los Angeles had “congested slums, as bad, . . . if not as...

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Chapter 3: Bovines, Babies, and Bacteriology: The Problems of Crafting Milk Reform

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pp. 77-103

On May 28, 1912, Katherine Philips Edson took her seven-year-old son by the hand and headed for her local polling precinct. Women had recently won suffrage in California, and Edson went to exercise her new right. This was a special referendum election, and she needed to consider a number of very different issues. Should she support the creation of an Aqueduct Investigation Board? ...

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Chapter 4: Delivering the City’s Childrena: Midwives and Municipal Maternity Programs

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pp. 104-131

The newly formed Division of Obstetrics of the Los Angeles city health department chose two photographs to represent their work in 1916. They entitled one “Before arrival of Maternity Service Physician and Nurse” and the other “After arrival of Maternity Service Physician and Nurse.” In the first, a Mexican woman, with almost a half-smile on her face, sits calmly at the edge of a...

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Chapter 5: The Challenge of Constructing Venereal Disease Programs

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pp. 132-155

Physician Etta C. Jeancon worked for the Los Angeles city health department’s venereal disease division during World War I. In her annual report of activities in June 1919, Jeancon recounted various attempts by female prisoners to use the courts to “test . . . the scope” of the city’s public health powers to arrest the spread of syphilis and gonorrhea.1 In particular, women contested...

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pp. 156-160

Current debates over how to reform health insurance indicate that many people remain uncommitted to intensifying government’s role in promoting the public’s health, even for the most vulnerable in our society. These disputes stand in contrast to what reformers achieved in Los Angeles during the early twentieth century. In 1889, the Los Angeles city health department consisted of a single...


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pp. 161


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pp. 163-193


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pp. 195-204

E-ISBN-13: 9780813548500
E-ISBN-10: 0813548500
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813545288
Print-ISBN-10: 0813545285

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 5 illustrations
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Critical Issues in Health and Medicine