Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

fingers, as she wept for the children who had lain full thirty years in their graves. The place, she said, had always been beset by illness. Typhoid, bilious and malarial fever, diphtheria, and rheumatism had come again and again. Bronchitis, nervous prostration, chronic rheumatism, imbecility, had come to remain. As I turned from the tear-stained face and stepped out into the sweet air and sunshine, this ghastly chapter of needless misery and loss came back ever with the question, “Who was to blame?” Here was a house unhygienic in every detail. Here disease had flourished like some poison weed in a noisome bog; and here the physician had come to comfort the sick, and stand helpless and sorrowful by the bedside of the dying. He was probably the only man of science who had been wont to cross the threshold, and yet he had never once lifted his voice to warn or advise these unfortunate people against the frightful conditions by which they had surrounded themselves.

That to go into your neighbor's house and find fault with his cellar, his drain, his well, his barn, or the cherished customs of his good wife, is not a pleasant duty, no one will deny; but, with tact and honesty of purpose, it can be safely done, as hosts of earnest physicians can testify. That doctors should stand by each other in these matters is what is most needed. Then none would lack the courage to condemn and denounce whatever is inimical to health in personal habits, households, or communities; and we believe that, when educated physicians unanimously recognize and live up to their responsibility in these things, the terrible occurrences which now blacken the histories of so many homes will have become things impossible in the near future for which we to day are building.

DISCUSSION OF DR. HALL'S PAPER. Dr. LOUISE Fiske Bryson, of New York.- I think Dr. Hall's paper illustrates the old proverb, “Where the sunshine does not come, the doctor does." These close houses are full of death. When a house is shut up, everything about it is dead, - the wood, the paint, the wool in the carpet; and possibly all this dead matter has something to do with the death of its occupants. There are the same disadvantages in the city, so far as sunlight and ventilation are concerned. If doctors could impress upon people that it is not in good “form” to have houses shut up, I think it would have more effect than putting it on a scientific basis. People are ready to be moral and hygienic sooner for that reason than for

any other.

In one

Rev. Dr. H. L. WAYLAND.— (On being invited to speak as “Doctor" Wayland.) I belong to the class of doctors who do not doctor. I am called upon to exercise my duties after these bad sanitary conditions have had their legitimate effect. I suppose that almost any of us who have visited Northern country houses can testify from observation and experience to the justness of what has been said by Dr. Hall. New England people are said to have become addicted to frugality. I think they forget that it has pleased the Lord to endow us with twenty-five miles of air, with his wonted largeness of conception. We sometimes act as if we felt that, if we filled our lungs or opened wide the windows, we should exhaust this air; but I think we may trust entirely in the resources of Providence, and breathe all we want to. You remember the story of the school teacher who boarded round. home, as her time fortunately approached its close, the head of the family said to her : “You were to be here only three and a half days, Miss Jones. That would give you only half a dinner; but, as we don't want to be mean about it, you might eat about as much as you generally do.” I think people limit themselves in the matter of breathing in just that way. If we breathe very nearly as much as our lungs will hold, if we open our windows very nearly as wide as they ought to be opened, we may appear on the right side of the census for a longer period perhaps. Whether talking about this matter will do any good, I don't know. Perhaps the only way is for people to die : then they will come to a sense of their situation. I don't know what to do.

It is a curious thing that people will exhibit such a fine sample of the resistance of the human mind: facts and figures seem to have no weight with them. You can tell them all these things, but it doesn't do any good. I hope Mr. Sanborn will put all these charts into the report, so that, if people will persist in going from the farm-houses to the crematory, it shall no longer be our fault.

Perhaps I may add that those who dwell in country houses are not the only sinners, or above all others. A mitigated form of this iniquity exists elsewhere. In Philadelphia, for instance, we drain into the Fairmount River, and then drink this diluted sewage. A statement has been published recently by a sanitary expert, showing that the water of the Fairmount River, which is carried over the city, contains now and then traces of the oil of cedar, which proceeds from the coffins that have contained the remains of our ancestors who were buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery. So you see that the pleasure of this intimate acquaintance or association with our ancestors is not confined to the people who live in the country. Still, I suppose, on the whole, the average health condition of our city homes is better than of those in the country. I do not know what we can do to get this valuable paper read. I wish the sixty million people of the United States belonged to this Association, so that they could all read it. The heads of the people are so dense! though there is one woman on record — Jael, the

[ocr errors]

wife of Heber, the Kenite — who was able to get something into the head of one of her contemporaries.

Mrs. Dall.— It is forty years since I made up my mind that the conditions of life in great cities were better than in country towns. I thought then what I think now, and what I have for the first time seen attention directed to in this paper, - that overshading country homes has a great deal to do with sickness.

I have just come from a three months' sojourn in Petersham (Mass.), which is almost as high as Princeton, where Mount Wachusett is. People from Boston and New York are going there in large numbers, buying the old farm-houses and fitting them up. But I have hardly found one that was not so shaded that I would not engage a room to live in. In the one where I finally found a home, I could only get a glimpse of heaven from the second story: it was impossible to get a view of the sunset or of the hills. A passion for planting trees close to the house seems to have existed there. I spoke to many people about it, but I could not convince any one that it was unhealthy. John Fiske has his abode there, and it is as shaded as any house in town. Three trees near one house were cut down on account of borers,— not for the sake of health, though every member of the family is ill. A lamentation for these trees went up all over the town. Every one said it would spoil that house. Petersham is a beautiful place; but it has been unhealthy all this summer,- very damp, with superficial drainage and many unwholesome wells in the town. If we could only convince people of the advantage it would be not to shut out the light and air by trees, we should accomplish a great work.

Mr. SANBORN.- I need scarcely call attention to the fact that sanitary science is in its infancy, even among physicians. Any physician who has been in practice forty years will remember the time when the ordinary rules for sanitation were almost unknown to the medical profession. Among the older practitioners there were few who understood the simplest methods of sanitation in regard to dwellings. A very wise man, sometimes given to jokes, - Sydney Smith, - used to speak of things happening “before the invention of common sense”; and that was not a very distant period. He did not mean to go back more than fifty years. Common sense in these matters does not go back more than fifty years. You must not wonder, therefore, when the men specially trained to preserve the health of the community were ignorant, that the rest of the community were also ignorant. I had the privilege of looking over Dr. Hall's paper in advance of her reading. I was struck by the melancholy facts which she has collected, and I asked what part of New England she had visited. She said Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. So far as Massachusetts is concerned, I think the picture would be overdrawn. My official business there consists largely in visiting homes in country towns where dependants of the State live. I go into houses of all kinds, and I seldom find the extreme conditions that have been stated so graphically by Dr. Hall. I find few houses where the sunlight is excluded. The bedrooms are ordinarily of good size, and there is usually access to air and light through the windows. I suppose the spread of sanitary truth through the newspapers has opened the blinds and cut down the trees in Massachusetts, and the same causes will operate hereafter. The public opinion of the women, who regulate this matter, will be changed by considerations of health and fashion; and these particular evils will in time be removed.

Our ancestors lived in houses which were not so air-tight as our modern houses are. I have even slept in old houses where the snow sifted down through the roof on the bed. That was to the advantage of the sleepers; and there were other corrections of the unsanitary conditions.

Mr. A. S. PEASE, Syracuse.- Something may be said in extenuation of the customs of the country. My residence there for twenty years has enabled me to make close observations of country homes. The modern house is better constructed than the old. The construction of sleeping-rooms in old times was governed by prudential motives. Wood was burned instead of coal then, and the sleepingrooms were put where the family could be most comfortable. Such apartments are now larger and better ventilated. The farmer, after all, gets into his lungs about as much fresh air as the merchant in the city, taking the twenty-tour hours together. If we look over the whole field, we shall find the hygienic condition of the farmer is about on a par with the residents of the city. But people should learn how to live all over their houses, as farmers do not. They live in the kitchen and in their bedrooms. When they learn to live in their parlors, they will keep their houses open more. say that a man's body is much like the house he lives in, and it is important that every man should learn to live all over his body, and in all the chambers of his mind.

We may 5. THE WORKING-WOMEN OF NEW YORK: THEIR

HEALTH AND OCCUPATIONS.

READ BY ELIZABETH STOW BROWN, M.D., OF NEW YORK.

Working-women as a class and as a social problem belong to recent times. They date from the beginning of the era of emigration, when such large proportions of the men of older communities were moved to leave their crowded States, and settle in new lands. Such movements included so small a part of the women that in the home countries these gradually became the more numerous sex. In the more progressive of the countries of Europe and in the older parts of America the female population considerably exceeds the male; and a large proportion of this excess are not housewives, but must work independently for their means of subsistence. Great wars, of course, have increased this disproportion, and have left their effect on several generations. In Great Britain and Ireland, the disproportion between the sexes is more marked than in any other nation of Europe. This is not surprising, since the United Kingdom has always been foremost in emigration. We may perhaps imagine that in later generations an equal distribution of the sexes will re-establish itself, since the time will come when emigration will stop by reason of the limits of the habitable globe. Yet it has been, and probably always will be, that the men will be rovers, more or less; that the women, timid in seeking new openings, will cling to their first implantation.

The number of women in Great Britain and Ireland who admit following some specific calling is 4,544,174, a certain proportion of whom, however, are married women. This is nearly equal to the entire population of Ireland, and greater than the entire population of Scotland and Wales put together,- a nation within a nation. In the United States, as a whole, males and females are nearly equal in numbers; but in the older parts of the country and in the great cities and large manufacturing towns we have again a large excess of women striving painfully, many of them, for the means of livelihood. In America we have no such wide-spread struggle of women for work as in Great Britain. In our great

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »