Home Nurseries: Medico-Moral Domains of American Infants in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Medical Advice Manuals

Elisabeth M. Yang, Rutgers University

Directions for constructing and setting up nurseries are a common feature of child-rearing medical manuals. This paper aims to do the following: First, it explores the physicians’ imagination of and prescription for the home nursery as delineated in the child-rearing manuals they authored; and second, it reflects on the ways in which these “blueprints” for the nursery bears some resemblance to the imagination of children’s hospitals in Fin-de-Siecle America. This study aims to investigate the physicians’ imaginations of the "healthy" and "moral" infant and the role the physical environment, specifically nursery architecture, plays in their vivification. I take the preliminary step in discussing the fundamental concepts invoked in my analysis. These are concepts such as “morality,” “health,” “character,” and "hygiene" that shape and undergird the enterprise of constructing the "American healthy and happy infant." Investigating the prescriptive power of the home nursery, I aim to reveal the confluence of religious, scientific, social, and political discourses that physicians and child-rearing authorities iterated in their counsel to middle-class mothers and housewives in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century America.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 227. Childhood and the "Healthful" Environment: Disease, Morality, and Reformation