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Children’s Health Issues in Historical Perspective

Cheryl Krasnick Warsh

Publication Year: 2005

From sentimental stories about polio to the latest cherub in hospital commercials, sick children tug at the public’s heartstrings. However sick children have not always had adequate medical care or protection. The essays in Children’s Issues in Historical Perspective investigate the identification, prevention, and treatment of childhood diseases from the 1800s onwards, in areas ranging from French-colonial Vietnam to nineteenth-century northern British Columbia, from New Zealand fresh air camps to American health fairs.

Themes include: the role of government and/or the private sector in initiating and underwriting child public health programs; the growth of the profession of pediatrics and its views on “proper” mothering techniques; the role of nationalism, as well as ethnic and racial dimensions in child-saving movements; normative behaviour, social control, and the treatment of “deviant” children and adolescents; poverty, wealth, and child health measures; and the development of the modern children’s hospital.

This liberally illustrated collection reflects the growing academic interest in all aspects of childhood, especially child health, and originates from health care professionals and scholars across the disciplines. An introduction by the editors places the historical themes in context and offers an overview of the contemporary study of children’s health.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press


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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi

We would like to thank the editors and reviewers who have assisted us in the production of this book, including Carroll Klein and Heather Blain-Yanke of Wilfrid Laurier University Press. We also thank Heather MacDougall, Paul Potter, Jacques Bérnier, Othmar Keel, Guy Grenier, Helen Brown, Darcey Kaluza, and Michael ...

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Introduction: The Spotlight on Children

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pp. 14-33

Children's health regularly concerns parents and family. It also receives intermittent attention from communities and nations. At the 1990 World Summit for Children, seventy-one countries signed the World Declaration on Survival, Protection and Development of Children and adopted a Plan of Action. That plan promised to ...


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Vegetables on Parade: American Medicine and the Child Health Movement in the Jazz Age

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pp. 23-72

American Progressives' dream of an efficient, humane, and harmonious nation was shattered by the First World War and its aftermath. During the war patriotic outbursts reinforced by crude propaganda from Woodrow Wilson's administration often turned into violent attacks on pacifist, socialist, and immigrant dissenters. Racism, ...

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No More Surprising Than a Broken Pitcher?: Maternal and Child Health in the Early Years of the Pan American Sanitary Bureau

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pp. 73-100

Historically, the priorities and activities of international health organizations have been determined at the metropolitan level or through a confluence of central and local interests. Early twentieth- century campaigns against epidemic diseases were prototypes of this arrangement, whereby the threat to international commerce was of ...

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Entre la «Revanche» et la «Veillée» des berceaux: Les médecins québécois francophones, la mortalité infantile, et la question nationale, 1910–1940

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pp. 101-128

Au Québec, les questions démographiques ont toujours été scrutées et commentées à travers le prisme de la question nationale. Pour s'en convaincre, il suffit d'évoquer les déclarations alarmistes de nombreux observateurs au sujet de la diminution de la fécondité des Québécoises francophones depuis les années 1960 et les différentes ...


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Infant Ideologies: Doctors, Mothers, and the Feeding of Children in Australia, 1880–1910

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pp. 131-160

The rise of pediatrics as a separate medical discourse is both the symbol and the practical embodiment of a new and fundamental interest in the child. Prior to the 1880s and 1890s, the health and well-being of the child had largely been subsumed into that of the mother: the woman and her child were inextricably linked through the cycles of ...

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Perpetually Malnourished?: Diet, Health, and America’s Young in the Twentieth Century

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pp. 161-190

Jacob Riis, New York's most famous police reporter, once again entered the reeking hallway of a familiar Mott Street tenement. Accompanying a "charity doctor" on his rounds, Riis entered a dark room on the top floor. A small girl lay dying of starvation on a makeshift bed of two chairs tied together with rope. Father, mother, ...

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The Early Development of Nutrition Policy in Canada

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pp. 191-206

In 1921 the Division of Child Welfare in the federal Department of Health developed Canada's first national dietary guidelines in an attempt to improve breastfeeding habits and encourage mothers to feed their babies more cow's milk.1 These dietary guidelines were developed primarily to reduce infant mortality rates and, not surprisingly, ...


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Caring for the Foreign-Born: The Health of Immigrant Children in the United States, 1890–1925

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pp. 209-226

That we are, as President John F. Kennedy once wrote, "a nation of immigrants" is indisputable.1 The founding of the United States of America was a complex process of transforming a vast territory into an established society with its own culture, mores, and institutions dedicated to liberty. This process, of course, relied heavily upon a stream ...

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La médicalisation de la mère et de son enfant: L’exemple du Vietnam sous domination française, 1860–1939

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pp. 227-266

L'histoire de la médicalisation de la mère et de son enfant est relativement bien connue pour l'Occident. Elle l'est beaucoup moins pour ce qui est des contrées tropicales et des anciennes colonies européennes, en particulier asiatiques, qui se sont affranchies au cours du XXe siècle1. Remédier en partie à cet oubli s'avère utile, ne serait-ce ...

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Complicating Childhood: Gender, Ethnicity, and “Disadvantage” within the New Zealand Children’s Health Camps Movement

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pp. 267-286

Over the first part of the twentieth century, health camps, residential open-air schools, and tuberculosis "preventoria" were presented in many Western societies as models of healthy lifestyles for children, incorporating into their programs wholesome and plentiful food, exposure to sunshine and fresh air, and regular rest and sleep. ...

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Race, Class, and Health: School Medical Inspection and “Healthy” Children in British Columbia, 1890–1930

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pp. 287-304

Public health reform in British Columbian schools at the turn of the twentieth century reflected the values and priorities of white middle- class professionals. First Nations children on the Inkameep Reserve in the early 1930s, for example, learned that "good health" meant conforming to the expectations of the dominant society. As the ...

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Ordering the Bath: Children, Health, and Hygiene in Northern Canadian Communities, 1900–1970

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pp. 305-324

Historians have recently started to pay close attention to the increased surveillance of Aboriginal children in residential schools.1 Teachers, missionaries, doctors, and nurses routinely inspected Aboriginal bodies in their desire to reform or "colonize bodies." Informed by Michel Foucault's analysis of power and surveillance, ...


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Physician Denial and Child Sexual Abuse in America, 1870–2000

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pp. 327-354

In 1908, J. Taber Johnson summarized his thoughts about gonorrhea in children in a chapter of an influential textbook on gonorrhea. His confident assertions, "That coitus is not essential to gonorrheal infection is an established fact," and "An overwhelming proportion of the cases of vulvovaginitis in young girls is gonorrheal in origin and is of ...

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“Living Symptoms”: Adolescent Health Care in English Canada, 1920–1970

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pp. 355-390

During the opening decades of "Canada's Century," as Canadians were impelled to come to terms with modernity, a number of voices joined in chorus to identify a "youth problem." Adolescents embodied the nation's potential. By simple virtue of having reached a certain life stage during a tumultuous time, they became another of the ...

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The Iconography of Child Public Health: Between Medicine and Reform

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pp. 391-408

During the interwar period in the United States, the links between child public health, biomedicine, and social welfare grew more tenuous. Child public health programs, once a central part of both medical and welfare efforts, operated within an increasingly restricted mandate. They fit in neither the world of pediatric medicine, ...


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La contribution de l’Hôpital Saint-Paul et de l’Alexandra Hospital à la lutte contre les maladies contagieuses infantiles à Montréal, 1905–1934

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pp. 411-438

Au tournant du XXe siècle, près de la moitié des décès au Québec sont rapportés parmi la population infantile et sont attribués aux maladies infectieuses2. Les villes et les quartiers défavorisés sont les lieux les plus touchés par ces dernières, l'industrialisation des centres urbains s'étant trop souvent accompagnée d'une détérioration de ...

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The Architecture of Children’s Hospitals in Toronto and Montreal, 1875–2010

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pp. 439-478

This paper explores more than a century of changing ideas about the health of Canadian children through the architecture of three urban hospitals: one in Toronto, the Hospital for Sick Children (founded in 1875; known as the "Victoria" Hospital for Sick Children until 1912), and two in Montreal, the Children's Memorial Hospital ...

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Frontier Health Services for Children: Alberta’s Provincial Travelling Clinic, 1924–1942

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pp. 479-506

Providing health services to sparsely populated, geographically isolated areas was a major challenge in many Canadian provinces prior to the advent of universal hospital insurance in the late 1950s, and universal physician insurance in the late 1960s. The task was especially daunting during the years of the Depression, which began ...

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 507-532

List of Contributors

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pp. 533-536


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pp. 537-554

E-ISBN-13: 9780889209121
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889204744
Print-ISBN-10: 0889204748

Page Count: 568
Publication Year: 2005