Hello History Lovers!
Inhaling droplets spread by coughing, sneezing, speaking, singing, or close face-to-face contact is the leading mode of respiratory disease transmission. No, I’m not just speaking about Covid-19. I’m talking about centuries-old contagious diseases that spread into the early twentieth century — tuberculosis, smallpox, diphtheria, and others. The Spanish Influenza, however, came seemingly out of nowhere but followed similar methods in its spread. These diseases were also spread by touching objects, including clothing, blankets, or skin sores, contaminated by infected droplets. Many cities during the 1918 flu pandemic closed theaters and schools, outlawed spitting in public, even outdoors, and promoted mask-wearing in an effort to curb the spread of influenza. A high mortality rate was another common denominator of these diseases within specific segments of the population.
During WW I America lost more servicemen to the Spanish Influenza than in combat due to the close quarters of military personnel, especially on ships, and the fact that there was no effective medical intervention available. In the early 1920s, the science of vaccinations was in its infancy, and even though an antitoxin had been developed for Diphtheria, the disease was still a leading cause of death in children at that time. Vaccinations for tuberculosis and smallpox were not widely accepted or promoted until after WW II.
Scarlet Fever, a highly contagious strain of the strep bacteria, was another potentially deadly disease for infants and young children sometimes leading to Rheumatic Fever. Those who survived were often left with serious health complications such as permanent hearing loss, heart, joint, or brain damage. Unfortunately, antibiotics that could arrest the disease were still two decades away. Couple this with concerns about childbirth and maternal health, proper hygiene and sanitation, the need for accessible health care in rural areas, and a safer food supply within cities, it becomes apparent that early-twentieth-century women needed information. Information regarding what she could do to help mitigate these issues within her family and community. Newspapers and periodicals such as THE FARMER’S WIFE – A MAGAZINE FOR FARM WOMEN were important sources available for the dispersal of up-to-date information to rural women. Below are other examples of the types of information rural women could access:
“In The Health Of Our Children Lies The Future Of Our Nation”
By Walter R. Ramsey M.D., Associate Professor, Diseases of Children, University of Minnesota
What the States Are Doing — 1926
THE Massachusetts Department of Health is entering the second year of a ten-year campaign dealing with the prevention of tuberculosis. The Massachusetts authorities are stressing the importance of food and nutrition as a means of prevention. A number of splendid pamphlets have been issued in this connection. These pamphlets are free to the residents of the state. Write to the State Department of Health, Capitol Building, Boston, Massachusetts.
THE Maryland State Department of Health is launching a campaign to have all school children protected against smallpox, scarlet fever, and diphtheria. This campaign involves a general program of education as to the nature of these diseases and means of prevention. Making the child fit to fight these serious children’s diseases by inspection and treatment before the beginning of the school year is becoming a state policy that might well be carried out in other sections of the country.
THE Connecticut State Department of Health is attempting to meet the needs for child hygiene work in opening child health centers in various parts of the state. At these health centers, young children can receive free examinations and inspections by their local or state departments. For particulars address Dr. A.E. Ingraham, 8 Washington St., Hartford, Connecticut.
THE West Virginia Department of Health has conducted a Mothercraft correspondence course since 1922. This course includes instruction as to prenatal care and touches also upon practically all of the problems encountered from babyhood up. Many mothers have availed themselves of the opportunity for instruction and they pronounce the course very helpful. Applicants should address the State Department of Health, Charleston, Massachusetts.
THE Massachusetts State Department of Health is conducting an extension course in Mothercraft. This course is in the form of fifteen complete lessons. The course is sold for four dollars. These lessons have been very carefully prepared and will be found most instructive and helpful. For particulars address the State Department of Health, Capitol Building, Boston, Massachusetts.
THE Pennsylvania Department of Health has recently issued a baby book that is not only attractive but helpful. This book covers not only matters dealing with the feeding and clothing of the child for health but also pays attention to the matter of child training and discipline. Pennsylvania mothers can secure this book by addressing the State Department of Health, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
THE Maryland Department of Health is watching over the welfare of the public by exercising very close supervision over the canneries of the state. This supervision covers a careful study of conditions under which canned products are processed and packed, thus insuring healthful products. Before being placed on the market such canned products must have the approval of the state authorities. FWM
The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife — A Magazine For Farm Women, October 1926, Page 487; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.