Small Matters

Small Matters: Canadian Children in Sickness and Health, 1900-1940

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    Small Matters
    Book Description:

    What was it like to be young and sick in the past? Who taught children how to be healthy and what were they expected to learn? In Small Matters, Mona Gleason explores how medical professionals, lay practitioners, and parents understood young patients and how children responded. During the first half of the twentieth century, particularly in the interwar decades, a number of changes took shape within the field of child healthcare - the rise of pediatrics as a medical profession, efforts to ameliorate maternal and infant mortality rates, and the shift of focus from controlling contagious diseases to the prevention of illness. Gleason makes use of oral histories throughout this period of health and welfare reform to shed new light on children's attitudes toward their medical treatment, their largely unexplored experiences of hospitalization and disability, and the importance of teachers and health curriculum to the development of "healthy habits." By focusing on children's medical treatment beyond the doctor's office, and by paying particular attention to the experience of marginalized children, Gleason makes a major contribution to the history of Canadian childhood and healthcare. The first work of its kind, Small Matters explores how children faced death, endured illness, and learned to be healthy in the context of their families and communities.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8854-7
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Illustrations
    (pp. xv-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION: The Intimate Landscape of Health in the History of Children and Childhood
    (pp. 3-20)

    Mattie Clarke was three years old in 1916. Born in Winnipeg, she had three siblings and lived in a modest house with her father, employed as a barber, and her mother, who tended to home and children full time. Once a week, her mother took her to the Children’s Hospital to tend to a throat ailment. “There was something wrong with my throat,” she recalled, “but I don’t remember what they did to fix it.” During her visit, Mattie would be “knocked out” by anesthesia, treated, and carried back home by her mother. “She would have to carry me from...

  6. 1 Doctored Bodies: Professional Medical Discourse and Children’s Embodied Difference
    (pp. 21-45)

    Turn-of-the-twentieth-century attention to public health and the reduction of infant mortality put the spotlight on the health needs of children in unprecedented public ways. Interest in children as a special medical population grew from these concerted efforts and then expanded to include the rise of pediatrics, mass education campaigns dealing with sanitation and hygiene, and the promotion of disease prevention. Eager to bring the science of hygiene to rapidly growing cities, health officials promoted cleanliness, proper sanitation, and contagious disease control as a matter of public protection. Children were both the targets of, and eager participants in, campaigns to rid...

  7. 2 Florence, Marc, Alice, and Theresa: Healthy Bodies and Domestic Doctoring, 1910s to the 1920s
    (pp. 46-66)

    As medical professionals worked to establish pediatric medicine as a legitimate specialization over the early decades of the twentieth century, children and their families encountered many health challenges. Multi-pronged responses to high rates of infant mortality, disease, and infection in the early twentieth century reflected new expectations for children’s health and welfare, and supported a growing network of professionals dedicated to the task. Public health officials, doctors, nurses, social workers, well-baby clinic staff, school administrators, teachers, and others interacted directly and indirectly with families to improve health. As Cynthia Comacchio has argued, “child nurture and family health became state interests”...

  8. 3 Shirley, Lily, Jack, and Lina: Healthy Bodies and Domestic Doctoring, 1920s to the 1940s
    (pp. 67-84)

    The interwar decades saw the strengthening and consolidation of a number of public health initiatives aimed at improving the health and welfare of Canadian families. Efforts to improve infant and maternal health, such as the introduction of well-baby clinics and milk pasteurization depots, helped lower infant mortality rates over the period, but tenacious gaps between upper- and lower-income families prevailed.¹ In 1926, a vaccine against diphtheria was made available. By the end of the Second World War, inoculations against small pox had all but successfully ended widespread epidemics of the virulent killer.² The addition of fluoride to municipal water supplies...

  9. 4 Learning the Body: Schools, Curriculum, and Health
    (pp. 85-101)

    Over the turn of twentieth century, public schools were spaces where the dissemination of official information and values regarding the constitution of healthy living took place. Added to the public school curriculum in Canada in the late 1800s and often written by or with the help of medical professionals, health education advanced hegemonic conceptions of disease and disease prevention, sanitation and hygiene, and healthy and unhealthy bodies. In health classes, students learned about proper nutrition, the nature of disease-causing germs and bacteria, and the rules of public health and hygiene. They were measured, weighed, and inspected for dirt and lice,...

  10. 5 Treated Bodies: Hospitalization
    (pp. 102-118)

    In the early months of 1914, siblings Gina and Thomas Sharon were discharged from Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children¹ with only “slight improvements” to their congenital syphilis.² Gina was three-and-a-half years old. Her brother was two. Brought to the hospital by their father, the children stayed for three months. The records do not reveal why their father brought them to the hospital when he did, whether he knew of their condition beforehand, or how the children fared during and after their long hospitalization. While the record is silent on precisely why the siblings were admitted when they were, congenital syphilis...

  11. 6 Reforming the Body: Doctors, Educators, and Attitudes Towards Disability in Childhood
    (pp. 119-137)

    Over the early decades of the twentieth century, childhood was redefined in much professional discourse as a distinct developmental stage of life characterized, at least in part, by the need for intervention and protection. The preceding chapters explore some of the ways that medical and educational professionals contributed to these shifting emphases through their treatment of small bodies and their discursive construction of the “healthy child” over the first four decades of the twentieth century. Equally important, I have argued, are the varied responses of children and their families to medical and educational interventions. These responses add contingency and complexity...

  12. CONCLUSION: Small Matters: Historical Meaning and Children’s Embodiment
    (pp. 138-146)

    On 23 August 1937 thirteen-year-old Harvey Bredeau came to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, accompanied by his father and the Indian agent. He lived with his parents on the Wikwemikong Reserve on Manitoulin Island, Ontario, one of four children, with two older brothers and a younger sister. His patient record notes that the attending doctor received a “rather inadequate” history of Harvey’s health from the Indian agent but does not indicate whether Harvey or his father were also consulted.

    Harvey appeared to the attending doctor to be, according to comments on his record, “a large boy with a completely destroyed...

  13. APPENDIX ONE Causes of Infant Death in Canada, for five-year periods, 1921–50
    (pp. 149-149)
  14. APPENDIX TWO Participant Information
    (pp. 150-151)
  15. APPENDIX THREE My Health Record
    (pp. 152-152)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 153-186)
  17. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 187-202)
  18. Index
    (pp. 203-207)