Shadows in the Valley
A Cultural History of Illness, Death, and Loss in New England, 1840-1916
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
Table of Contents
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List of Illustrations
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This book became a gleam in my eye, plus several pages of notes, during the spring of 1996, while working on a study of infant mortality in nineteenth-century Massachusetts. In 1995–96 I was fortunate to receive a Weatherhead Resident Scholarship to the School for American (now Advanced) Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This beautiful and inspiring place, and the bright col-...
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This book is about the circumstances that occur when illness leads to death, and death to loss and mourning. Anthropologists sometimes remark that birth and death are the only true universals for humankind. But though death is universal, the way it is experienced is not. This book also is about death in a specific place and time: Massachusetts from the mid-nineteenth to the early ...
Chapter 1: Histories of Illness and Death
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In the early spring of 1842 a country doctor sits at his writing desk. As he writes, he ponders a recent epidemic of dysentery in his town, unaware that another is soon to follow. The doctor’s name is Stephen West Williams, and he lives in the small agricultural town of Deerfield, County of Franklin, Commonwealth of Massachusetts. A third-generation medical man, he began ...
Chapter 2: Life and Death in Massachusetts, Deerfield, and the Connecticut River Valley, 1620–1840
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When Timothy Dwight traveled throughout New England in 1796–97, soon after assuming the presidency of Yale University, he saw a landscape dotted with small farming communities and mill sites that reflected prosperity and abundance. New Englanders had been cultivating the land for about 175 ...
Chapter 3: Cholera Infantum
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Upon returning to Deerfield after delivering his address to the Massachusetts Medical Society in May, Stephen West Williams hoped that the ...
Chapter 4: The Fevers of Childhood
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Among the childhood diseases that tormented families, communities, and public health officials in nineteenth-century New England, the so-called childhood fevers—scarlet fever, measles, and diphtheria—worked by far the ...
Chapter 5: Dutiful Daughters, Pallid Young Women
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“Consumption, that great destroyer of human health and human life, takes the first rank as an agent of death; and as such, we deem it proper to analyze more particularly the circumstances under which it operates. Any facts regarding a disease that destroys one-seventh to one-fourth of all that die, cannot ...
Chapter 6: Reproductive Women, Productive Men
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A simple entry by the Reverend Edgar Buckingham, a Deerfield Congregational minister, in the First Church’s book of baptisms, marriages, and funerals for 1870 reads: “April 19, Mary E. wife of John H. Stebbins. Age, 34, ...
Chapter 7: Surviving the Odds: The “Privilege” of Old Age
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At the close of the nineteenth century, Dr. Samuel Abbott, secretary to the Massachusetts State Board of Health, took a keen interest in the long series of vital statistics available to him through the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics. In a report published in 1897, he noted that whereas in 1855...
Chapter 8: Managing Disease in the Long Nineteenth Century: Numeracy and Nosology, Nature and Nurture, 1840–1916
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On the strength of a compendium of data remarkable for its time, the Report of the Sanitary Commission, Lemuel Shattuck and the commission concluded in 1850 that “causes exist in Massachusetts, as in England, to produce premature and preventable deaths, and hence unnecessary and preventable...
Chapter 9: Bodies of Evidence: Death, Loss, and the Search for Meaning
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On a beautiful, sunny Memorial Day shortly before I finished the book, I walked into Deerfield’s Laurel Hill Cemetery to revisit the resting places of Frankie and George Sheldon, Hattie Willard, and the other people I had come to know during my research. I wanted to take a final look at the gravestones and epitaphs of those whose names fill these pages, and I had brought my ...
Appendixes: Data Collection and Evaluation
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Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 50 illus.
Publication Year: 2010