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Doctoring the South

Southern Physicians and Everyday Medicine in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

Steven M. Stowe

Publication Year: 2004

Offering a new perspective on medical progress in the nineteenth century, Steven M. Stowe provides an in-depth study of the midcentury culture of everyday medicine in the South. Reading deeply in the personal letters, daybooks, diaries, bedside notes, and published writings of doctors, Stowe illuminates an entire world of sickness and remedy, suffering and hope, and the deep ties between medicine and regional culture. In a distinct American region where climate, race and slavery, and assumptions about "southernness" profoundly shaped illness and healing in the lives of ordinary people, Stowe argues that southern doctors inhabited a world of skills, medicines, and ideas about sickness that allowed them to play moral, as well as practical, roles in their communities. Looking closely at medical education, bedside encounters, and medicine's larger social aims, he describes a "country orthodoxy" of local, social medical practice that highly valued the "art" of medicine. While not modern in the sense of laboratory science a century later, this country orthodoxy was in its own way modern, Stowe argues, providing a style of caregiving deeply rooted in individual experience, moral values, and a consciousness of place and time. In this deeply researched study of white country doctors in the mid-nineteenth-century South, Stowe examines their training, practice, and reflective writing. In three parts, the book investigates the education doctors received; doctor/patient relationships and the related dynamics of race, economics, and community structure; and how doctors wrote about and understood the wider meaning of their work. Stowe's argument centers on the rural practice of medicine; the fluid boundary between "orthodox" practice and the vernacular practice of midwives, healers, herbalists, and family members; and the ways in which race did and didn't enter the spheres of sickness and healing. Stowe examines the role of the white country doctor in the mid-nineteenth-century South and explores what their training, their practice, and their writings tell us about community and culture in the rural antebellum South. Offering a new perspective on medical progress in the nineteenth century, Steven M. Stowe provides an in-depth study of the midcentury culture of everyday medicine in the South. Reading deeply in the personal letters, daybooks, diaries, bedside notes, and published writings of doctors, Stowe illuminates an entire world of sickness and remedy, suffering and hope, and the deep ties between medicine and regional culture. In a distinct American region where climate, race and slavery, and assumptions about "southernness" profoundly shaped illness and healing in the lives of ordinary people, Stowe argues that southern doctors inhabited a world of skills, medicines, and ideas about sickness that allowed them to play moral, as well as practical, roles in their communities. Looking closely at medical education, bedside encounters, and medicine's larger social aims, he describes a "country orthodoxy" of local, social medical practice that highly valued the "art" of medicine. While not modern in the sense of laboratory science a century later, this country orthodoxy was in its own way modern, Stowe argues, providing a style of caregiving deeply rooted in individual experience, moral values, and a consciousness of place and time.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7

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CONTENTS

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pp. vii-9

Changing Bodies: ‘‘Experience’’ and the Charm of Drugs 149...

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. ix-13

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...

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INTRODUCTION: Physicians, Everyday Medicine, and the Country Orthodox Style

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pp. 1-12

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

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pp. 13-27

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ONE. Men, Schools, and Careers

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pp. 15-40

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...

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TWO. The Science of All Life

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pp. 41-75

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...

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THREE. Starting Out

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pp. 76-98

‘‘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

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pp. 99-113

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FOUR. Livelihood

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pp. 101-130

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...

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FIVE. Bedside

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pp. 131-164

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

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pp. 165-179

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SIX. The Lives of Others

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pp. 167-199

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...

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SEVEN. Landscape, Race, and Faith

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pp. 200-227

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...

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EIGHT. Witnessing

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pp. 228-258

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...

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EPILOGUE: The Civil War and the Persistence of the Country Orthodox Style

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pp. 259-272

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...

NOTES

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pp. 273-326

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 327-364

INDEX

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pp. 365-374


E-ISBN-13: 9781469603629
E-ISBN-10: 1469603624
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807828854
Print-ISBN-10: 0807828858

Page Count: 392
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Studies in Social Medicine