April 4, 2006

Did the invention of antibiotics liberate women from mandatory housewifery? Continued.

-- In response to an earlier item, John Derbyshire emails:

I am sure you are right. The parental terror of childhood infections still hung in the air during my own childhood (ca. 1950). I can still rattle off their names: diphtheria, scarlet fever, measles, German measles, whooping cough, mumps, & of course polio. Standards of household cleanliness in the English working class of that time were much higher than in the current American middle class. There was fierce gossip among my mother & her peers about so-and-so "not keeping a clean house." The adjective "houseproud" was in common use. It induced pathologies. The woman next door to us, whose son was my playmate, kept her front parlor so spotless, it was never allowed to be used. Peter & I sneaked in there once, but it was a great adventure. I mainly remember the gleaming brasses & smell of furniture polish. I never learned to swim as a child, & still can't swim well, because of the fear of catching polio at the public pools. In hospitals, where I spent considerable time as a child (& where my mother worked), everything was scrubbed down twice a day with carbolic (?) soap. The wards reeked of disinfectant and starch. Instruments were wheeled around in little trays of boiling water. There was a sort of fanaticism about it all--but probably well justified.

Another reader writes:

Along similar lines, I have come up with the idea that the success of the Great Migration of blacks from the South to the North was possible due to the concurrent discovery of vitamin D and the institution of the practice of food irradiation, which began in 1927. Were it not for food irradiation, black families would not have been able to raise healthy children in dark northern cities, and the population would not have been sustainable.

CBS news reports today in "Rickets Make a Comeback" that there may be need for more fortification with Vitamin D:

Government blood tests suggest a surprising number of Americans do not get currently recommended amounts, especially those with dark-pigmented skin that does not produce as much of the vitamin from sunlight.

Half of black women of childbearing age lack enough vitamin D in their blood during the winter and 30 percent in the summer, according to studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That compares with 11 percent of white women in the winter and 2 percent in the summer. Levels among Hispanics fall in between.

The introduction of sulfas in in the 1930s and penicillin in 1944 also helped the Great Migration, which is often dated to the introduction of a mechanized cotton reaper in 1943. Before them, and, perhaps more importantly, before the introduction of modern sanitation, the life expectancy of blacks in northern cities was poor. As I wrote in VDARE in 2003:

Brandeis historian David Hackett Fischer pointed out in his famous Albion's Seed that these racial differences had an enormous impact on the history of America. He notes that the cold climate of colonial Massachusetts

"proved to be exceptionally dangerous to immigrants from tropical Africa, who suffered severely from pulmonary infections in New England winters. Black death rates in colonial Massachusetts were twice as high as whites' - a pattern very different from Virginia where mortality rates for the two races were not so far apart, and still more different from South Carolina where white death rates were higher than those of blacks. So high was mortality among African immigrants in New England that race slavery was not viable on a large scale, despite many attempts to introduce it. Slavery was not impossible in this region, but the human and material costs were higher than many wished to pay. A labor system which was fundamentally hostile to the Puritan ethos of New England was kept at bay partly by the climate."

Not surprisingly, in the 19th Century, Massachusetts became the home of abolitionism. South Carolina became the home of secession.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

No comments: