Saving the Diseased Child

by Maddie Smith, Catherine Moring, Blake Braunberg, Dylan Streb, and Ethan Hevia-Lenkiewicz

GEOG/HST170 — Historical Geography, University of Vermont
Dr. Meghan Cope (
Spring 2022 — Final Project

The American child of the late 19th to mid 20th century experienced a very different childhood to that of the American child today; working to financially support their family, attending compulsory school for the first time, being introduced to consumerism through allowances, and watching their peers and siblings fall ill to horrific diseases. While these are not the only events that defined American children and society at the time, fighting childhood illness and disease proved to be significant to the scientific and medical community, but not without challenge. The United States experienced extremely high infant and child mortality rates during this time period, caused by common diseases such as diphtheria, influenza, tuberculosis, whooping cough, measles, and polio, just to name a few. As mortality grew and diseases spread, so did the desperation for parents to find a remedy, or better yet a cure, for their suffering children. Pressure from parents and greater society pushed for modern science to find a solution to prevent the spread of illness and cure those affected. Our analysis of childhood illness focuses on how the development of modern medicine and use of home remedies influenced the sick child and society as a whole.