Reformers, Settlements, and "Pure" Milk Discussion/March 1998


Reformers, Settlements, and "Pure" Milk Discussion/March 1998

Original Query From Nancy Marie Robertson 04 March 1998

Do people have suggestions for useful pieces/books on the involvement of reformers with pure milk campaigns (including milk stations, milk programs, and legislation requiring pasteurization, etc)? I ma particularly interested in the campaign/s in New York and/or involvement of settlement houses. While I am interested in the public health parts of the history, I am also curious about the preoccupation with milk. Is there a social history of this yet? Thanks.


From Mary Ann Irwin 05 Mar 1998

The connection between women and the pure milk movement is the decline in breast-feeding and the rise in bottle feeding -- along with this came a corresponding rise in infant mortality, due to bovine tuberculosis and the lack of sanitary procedures at dairies. On sources, there is a wonderful essay by Molly Ladd-Taylor in Mother's of a New World (Koven & Michel eds) called "My Work Came Out of Agony and Grief". The essay is actually about the Sheppard-Towner Act, but it is rich in material on the maternal and infant health movement, which is where the pure milk campaigns "fit in."

From K. Endres 05 Mar 1998

With regard to pure milk....I'm not sure if there is a social history on this topic but I do know that several of the women's magazines, in their muckraking dealt with milk and additives to it.

From Jillian Dickert dickert@BINAH.CC.BRANDEIS.EDU 05 Mar 1998

I'd highly recommend Richard A. Meckel's book *Save the Babies: American Public Health Reform and the Prevention of Infant Mortality, 1850-1929* (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins U Press, 1990). Chapter 3 is titled "Pure Milk for Babies: Improving the Urban Milk Supply."

From Janet Golden 05 March 1998 Re: pure milk see:
Richard Meckel _Save the Babies: American Public Health Reform and the Prevention of Infant Mortality, 1850-1929 (Johns Hopkins UP, 1990) on the New York campaign see Norman Shaftel, "A History of the Purification of Milk in New York: or, How Now Brown Cow," in Judith Walzer Leavitt and Ronald L. Numbers, _Sickness and Health in American Readings in the History of Medicine and Public Health (1st edition, 1978) for the contemporary perspective see Rowland Godfrey Freeman "Milk as an Agency in the Conveyance of Disease," Medical Record 49 (1896): 433 and Charles Harrington, "Infantile Mortality and Its Principle Cause--Dirty Milk" American Journal of the Medical Sciences 132 (1906) and Ernset Christopher Meyer, Infant Mortality in New York City: A Study of the Results Accomplished by Infant-Life Saving Agencies, 1855-1920 (Rockefeller Foundation International Health Board, 1929). For background see: Rima D. Apple, Mothers and Medicine: A Social History of Infant Feeding, 1890-1950, Janet Golden, A Social History of Wet Nursing: From Breast to Bottle, and Patricia Mooney Melvin, The Organic City: Urban Definition and Community Organization, 1880-1920 (Univ of Ky press) esp. pp. 26-56. Hpe this helps, if you need more you can write to me privately.

From Val Marie Johnson 05 Mar 1998

The first thing of course that it brings to mind for me, particularly as a fixation (and aside from the very real health aspects), is whiteness.

I have to think that this is at least a sub textual aspect, particularly with the tag of 'purity' attached to it, which brings in moral implications. It makes me think of Mariana Valverde's work on soap as this kind of symbol (_The Age of Light, Soap, and Water: Moral Reform in English Canada, 1885-1925_[1991]).I cannot remember anything along this line with regard to milk.

From what I have seen the targets of the milk campaigns (I believe that Henry Street was involved. I wonder if the Women's Municipal League was?) were predominantly poor immigrants. certainly through the settlements one of the main wedges for social reform was motherhood -- immigrants are bad mothers. It doesn't get much closer than milk and motherhood. and there are possibly 'racial' purity implications there as well.

Another question that this line of thought raises for me is whether or not the campaigns were directed at milk for babies as well as children. is this an anti-breast feeding thing?
I'm fascinated to see what the folks on the list come up with.

From Lynn Japinga JAPINGAL@HOPE.CIT.HOPE.EDU 05 Mar 1998

I don't know a lot about this, but I have a couple of references in my social gospel notes, and I'm not even clear on the sources. Walter Rauschenbusch talked about sheep that never baahed and chicken that grunted in the barnyard. Apparently some pretty gruesome things were done with milk, like using formaldehyde to preserve it. Pure milk would have been part of the larger reform efforts to control what went into meat, drugs, etc.

From Rima Apple 05 Mar 1998

Have you looked at Judith Walzer Leavitt, _The healthiest city: Milwaukee and the politics of health reform_? Judy has a substantial chapter on the reform reform which highlights many of the points in your query.
As for the preoccupation with milk, it must have to do with the connection between children and milk. You might get some more ideas if you look at the debates over the labeling of rBGH milk. The same sort of concerns and connections between children, milk, health, the nation's future are evident today in that controversy.

From Elizabeth Toon 05 Mar 1998

In response to Nancy Robertson's query about reformers, settlement houses, and milk campaigns--an excellent place to start is Richard Meckel's _"Save the babies" : American public health reform and the prevention of infant mortality, 1850-1920_ (Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990).

From Francesca C Morgan 05 Mar 1998

Regarding milk, take a look at Richard Meckel's Save the Babies (JHU Press, 1990) on infant mortality. I have a feeling people were preoccupied with milk because problems with drinking water were even more common than spoiled milk.

From Christine Kleinegger CKLEINEG@MAIL.NYSED.GOV 05 Mar 1998

These are older sources on the dairy industry: Eric Brunger's dissertation "New York State Dairy Industry, 1850-1900" (Syracuse University, 1954) and an article by Brunger, "Dairying and Urban Development in New York State, 1850-1900," in Agricultural History (Oct. 1955). Also, Joe B. Frantz's _Gail Borden: Dairyman to a Nation _(Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1951); and T.R. Pirtle, _History of the Dairy Industry_ (1926).

From Amanda K Frisken 05 Mar 1998

You might want to look at Nancy Tomes'
book (forthcoming, Oxford UP) _The Gospel of Germs_ --she talks a bit about the gendered dimensions of some of these initiatives, though I seem to remember that she decided not to do milk because so much has already been done, at least from the pub. health perspective.

From Genevieve G McBride 05 Mar 1998

See also Janice Steinscneider's _Not a New Woman, But an Improved Woman_ on campaigns of the Wisconsin...Federation of Women's Clubs.

It was her thesis at UW Madison; if you have difficulty finding the book, you can request (of the UW library) a copy of the portion which pertains to only the pure-milk campaign (although I recommend the rest).

From Kriste Lindenmeyer 07 Mar 1998

Richard Meckel's book is the best place to start.

Efforts to save babies' lives had their origins in the 19th century public health movement and specifically in the establishment of urban milk stations with associated health clinics. Dr. Abraham Jacobi, a founder of the american Pediatric Association, had opened the nation's first children's health clinic in NYC in 1862. Similar children's health centers in other cities followed. Many were connected with milk stations designed to distribute "certified" cow's milk, since contaminated milk, mainly in the nation's growing urban centers, led to the deaths of many children from what was then called "summer complaint" or "summer diarrhea."

In 1892 Henry L. Coit, M.D., encouraged the local doctors' association to establish a milk commission in New Jersey. In 1906 Cincinnati physicians established a similar milk commission which called for a national conference to be held on June 3, 1907, in Atlantic City. This meeting established the national American Association of Medical Milk Commissions. By 1908, pure milk commissions operated in twenty-one American cities.

Many such commissions and clinics worked with local maternity societies and children's rights groups (such as the Babies' Milk Fund and Maternity Society in Cincinnati). Hence, women's organizations and pediatricians were the most significant contributors to this early effort to reduce infant mortality and child death rates. Interestingly, the AMA's focus on the "white plague" (tuberculosis) opened the door for women reformers in the area of "pure" milk. Many of these groups simultaneously promoted breast feeding and the use of "certified" milk.

I have included a list of sources for this topic in my book, _A Right To Childhood: The U.S. Children's Bureau and Child Welfare, 1912-1946_.

Ed. Note: Allison Helper, also recommended Richard Meckel's _Save the Babies_ book.

From Rob Siegel 16 Mar 1998

>Is there a social history of this yet?>

To answer your final question, I can say "no," but I'm trying to write one.

For the first parts of your question, I'm afraid I don't have much useful information. My essay focuses on the milk-consumption boom from 1917 to 1926 (according to the USDA, per capita milk consumption rose 30% in the U.S. in those years). I don't know much about the pure milk movement because I'm largely studying condensed (and therefore necessarily uncontaminated) milk. Granted, during those years there was tremendous focus on the purity of milk, and the USDA made a tremendous effort to educate consumers about how to avoid contaminated milk (look into USDA Farmer's Bulletin #1207, "Milk and its Uses in the Home" from 1921). For the most part, I can't help you out here.

But your other question, "why the preoccupation with milk?" is the preoccupation of my paper. I'll try to give you the college summary. In 1911 and 1913, scientists discovered two substances essential for growth in animals, and called them "Vitamine A" and "Vitamine B." At the same time, nutritionists had declared protein, fat, carbohydrate, and a handful of minerals the most essential nutrients for people. When social reformers realized that milk had lots of these materials, and believed that milk had lots of vitamin A and B (which it does not, but scientists believed it at the time), they waged a significant publicity campaign to convince mother to feed milk to their children in large amounts, even after weaning (See Children's Bureau pamphlet "Milk: The Indespensible Food for Children," written by D.R. Mendenhall and first published in 1918, an extremely popular pamphlet). The pro-milk campaigns succeeded tremendously, with the milk producers riding the new milk-is-healthy attitude to a series of advertising campaigns in the 1920s designed to equate milk with good health.

That's a summary view. A more complete analysis points to things you probably know more about than I do: the rising cult of parenthood with its "scientific motherhood," the rise in the efficacy of advertising in the 1920s, and more. Do you have any thoughts to add? Anything you're noticing that might have contributed to the fascination with milk?