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Twenty-five years after its 1990 publication, Richard A. Meckel's Save the Babies remains widely acknowledged as the single most comprehensive and authoritative history of the multifaceted infant welfare campaign that attended and contributed to the dramatic late nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century reduction of infant mortality in the United States.
Beginning with the mid-nineteenth-century transformation of infant mortality from a social fact into a social problem in need of amelioration and ending with the Great Depression, Meckel depicts and analyzes the evolution of a reform movement that had a single overriding goal but was made up of professional, political, philanthropic, and lay voluntary groups with often competing ideas and agendas. He shows how interaction and negotiation between these groups and their interests, as well as changing social and medical theory, shaped the successive ways that both the major causes of infant mortality and the best policies for its reduction were conceptualized and promoted. In an epilogue, the author provides an overview of the American discourse on infant mortality from the 1930s through the 1980s.
For this new release of Save the Babies, the author has added a preface that surveys the related historical scholarship published since 1990 and details how the American discourse on infant mortality has evolved since then.
Richard A. Meckel is professor of American Studies, Brown University, and author of Classrooms and Clinics: Urban Schools and the Protection and Promotion of Child Health, 1870-1930.
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