“What a unique perspective on twentieth-century America. Janet Golden, an exquisite storyteller and spectacular sleuth, uncovered odd bits of history brilliantly gleaned from babies – our non-verbal, cooing descendants. She has incubated this novel thesis: The modern era was propelled, in part, by a quest to keep babies alive, disease-free, well fed and happy. You’ll be shocked, entertained and utterly convinced.” – Randi Hutter Epstein – Yale University
How did babies shape American culture and lead their families into the modern world? Using babies as the center of the narrative, Janet Golden explores the dramatic shifts in the lives of American babies during the twentieth century. Babies pushed America to become more accepting of everything from scientific research to psychological theories to government programs.
‘This fascinating, richly researched history is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding the American paradox: How a nation that professes to love babies can have the highest rate of infant mortality in any wealthy society. As Golden demonstrates, shifting attitudes toward babies radically reshaped medical practice, consumer spending, governmental policy, and public understanding of human development – even as large numbers of infants continued to grow up in poverty and without adequate care or stimulation.’ Steven Mintz, University of Texas, Austin
Golden examines how babies shaped American society and culture and led their families into the modern world to become more accepting of scientific medicine, active consumers, open to new theories of human psychological development, and welcoming of government advice and programs. Importantly Golden also connects the reduction in infant mortality to the increasing privatization of American lives. She also examines the influence of cultural traditions and religious practices upon the diversity of infant lives, exploring the ways class, race, region, gender, and community shaped life in the nursery and household.
About the Author: Janet Golden is a historian of health care, women, and children and a professor at Rutgers University. She is the author of several articles and books, including Message in a Bottle: The Making of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (2006). She is co-editor of the Critical Issues in Health and Medicine Series at Rutgers University Press and the Philadelphia Inquirer’s public health blog. Her website is: https://golden.camden.rutgers.edu.
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