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The Public Lifeofa WomanofWitand Quality: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and theVoguefor Smallpox Lnoculation Diana Barnes During a smallpox epidemic in April 1721, Lady Mary Wortley Mon tagu asked Dr. Charles Maitland to "engraft" her daughter, thus insti gating the firstdocumented inoculation for smallpox (Variola virus) in England. Engrafting, or variolation, was a means of conferring immu nity to smallpox by placing pus taken from a smallpox pustule under the skin of an uninfected person to create a local infection. The introduction of infectious viral matter, however, could trigger full blown smallpox, and the practice was controversial for both this reason and the pervasive conviction that it was immoral to inten tionally infect a human body. Eventually, engrafting was phased out altogether in favor of vaccination, a much safer procedure estab lished by Edward Jenner in the late eighteenth century. Montagu's decision was influenced by her experiences in Constantinople, where she had spent a year, and where engrafting was commonplace. As a smallpox survivor herself, Montagu had taken an interest in Turkish inoculation practices, and had had her son Edward engrafted while in Turkey. She was not the first person to import the idea of small pox inoculation to England, nor the first English person to have their child inoculated (other English children had been inoculated while visiting Turkey), yet she quickly became known for importing and popularizing smallpox inoculation. At the request of her acquain tances, she took her inoculated daughter with her on a round of visits into elite households to demonstrate the safety of the proce dure. The reputation she gained was both positive and negative: FeministStudies38, no. 2 (Summer 2012). © 2012 by Feminist Studies, Inc. 330 Diana Barnes 331 monuments were erected in her honor, encomiastic poems were published, and Voltaire declared her "a woman of as fine a genius, and endued with as great a strength of mind as any of her sex in the British Kingdoms";1 however, anti-inoculationists ridiculed her, some society figures regarded her warily, and Alexander Pope sati rized her in his poetry. Montagu's pioneering role in the smallpox debate is undoubt edly significant: she instigated the first smallpox inoculation on English soil, and she was largely responsible for making the practice acceptable in elite circles. My interest in this essay is in the nature and significance of Montagu's reputation as an inoculation pioneer. I will argue that her reputation was based on the particular combi nation of her social position as a Whig and an aristocratic woman; her interest in progressive and enlightened forms of social, politi cal, and scientific thought; her standing in influential literary circles; and, not least, the force of her own personality. In broad terms, I offer Montagu's involvement in the smallpox debate as a case study in a new kind of public role becoming available to elite women in the early eighteenth century—a role that caused considerable discom fort among her peers and in the medical community, and one that stimulated a widespread controversy in print publications of the day The view that Montagu played an important role in the success ful introduction of smallpox inoculation to England was held for a long time by medical historians, eighteenth-century intelligentsia, popu lar tradition, and her own family history, albeit in varied tones. In The AdoptionofInoculation forSmallpoxin Englandand France,first published in 1957, medical historian Genevieve Miller intervened. She argued that Montagu's role was less important than that of the Royal Soci ety, which was receiving reports of Eastern methods of inoculation, amassing statistical evidence, and circulating the results over the same period as Montagu's involvement.2 After the World Health Organiza tion announced the eradication of smallpox in 1980, Miller delivered a strident address to the American Association for the History of Medi cine titled: "Putting Lady Mary in Her Place: A Discussion of Histori cal Causation."3 Montagu's biographer, Isobel Grundy, however, objects that the triumphant narrative of medical and scientific progress obscures women's contributions.4 Piecing together scant evidence, 332 Diana Barnes Portrait miniature of an unknown woman (thought to be Lady Mary Wort ley Montagu) wearing Turkish costume, by Gervase Spencer. Enamel on...

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