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Babies Made Us Modern
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    Babies Made Us Modern
    • Online ISBN: 9781108227308
    • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108227308
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Book description

Placing babies' lives at the center of her narrative, historian Janet Golden analyzes the dramatic transformations in the lives of American babies during the twentieth century. She 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.

Reviews

‘This is a wonderful book about how our evolving view of infancy changed our world; Janet Golden has brought the lost images and voices of babies and their caregivers back into our national story and created a book that will be of interest to all who care about American history, and about child development.'

Perri Klass - author of Treatment Kind and Fair: Letters to a Young Doctor

‘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 - author of Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank

‘Golden's manuscript as history is overall so full of rich detail, so nicely presented and so widely researched that it will make an important addition to the literature on childhood, on modern childrearing, and on the larger question of where children fit into American history. It is the complex, often unexpected, and subtle way in which Golden argues for how babies have brought Americans into the modern world that makes the book both a pleasure to read and groundbreaking.'

Paula Fass - author of The End of American Childhood: A History of Parenting from Life on the Frontier to the Managed Child

‘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 - author of The Prime of Life: A History of Modern Adulthood

'Golden contends that the early-20th-century focus on babies as a source of joy, rather than merely future adults, ushered in modernity in America. The incubator brought crowds to Nebraska’s 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition to watch premature infants, but by the 1930s incubators were regular features in hospitals, where by then most babies were born. The attention of the public brought government involvement in registering infants’ births, publishing manuals on how to raise them, and medical discoveries that reduced infant mortality and dramatically improved their well-being … Besides doctors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists, retailers mined the new baby market to advertise accessories, canned food, and toys. Consumers were gifted baby books to record their development. A collection of 1,500 of those books, along with US Children’s Bureau documents and advice literature, are the main primary sources for Golden’s persuasive argument. Recommended.'

N. Zmora Source: Choice

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