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Epidemics and immigrants have suffered a lethal association in the public mind, from the Irish in New York wrongly blamed for the cholera epidemic of 1832 and Chinese in San Francisco vilified for causing the bubonic plague in 1900, to Haitians in Miami stigmatized as AIDS carriers in the 1980s. Silent Travelers vividly describes these and many other episodes of medicalized prejudice and analyzes their impact on public health policy and beyond. The book shows clearly how the equation of disease with outsiders and illness with genetic inferiority broadly affected not only immigration policy and health care but even the workplace and schools. The first synthesis of immigration history and the history of medicine, Silent Travelers is also a deeply human story, enriched by the voices of immigrants themselves. Irish, Italian, Jewish, Latino, Chinese, and Cambodian newcomers among others grapple in these pages with the mysteries of modern medicine and American prejudice. Anecdotes about famous and little-known figures in the annals of public health abound, from immigrant physicians such as Maurice Fishberg and Antonio Stella who struggled to mediate between the cherished Old World beliefs and practices of their patients and their own state-of-the-art medical science, to "Typhoid Mary" and the inspiring example of Mother Cabrini. Alan M. Kraut tells of the newcomers founding of hospitals to care for their own the "Halls of Great Peace" (actually little more than hovels where lepers could go to die) set up by Chinese immigrants; the establishment of St. Vincent's Hospital in New York as an institution sensitive to the needs of Catholic patients; and the creation of a tuberculosis sanitarium inDenver by Eastern European Jewish tradespeople who managed to scrape together $1.20 in contributions at their first meeting. Tapping into a rich array of sources - from turn-of-the-century government records to an advice book aimed at Italians financed by the DAR, from the photog

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780801850967
ISBN-10: 0801850967
Format: Paperback
(235mm x 155mm x 25mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publish Date: 1-Mar-1995
Country of Publication: United States

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Reviews

US Kirkus Review » Fascinating, well-researched account of how immigration and public health have influenced each other in the American experience. Kraut (History/American University; Huddled Masses, etc. - not reviewed) asserts that "the double helix of health and fear that accompanies immigration continues to mutate, producing malignancies on the culture." Current fears about AIDS and Haitian refugees, for example, echo the concern of Californians in the early 1900's over bubonic plague and Chinese immigrants and that of easterners in the 1830's over cholera and Irish immigrants. Kraut examines the nativist prejudices that can stigmatize an entire group as a health menace and shows how scientific medicine has been used by some Americans to advocate exclusion and by others to promote assimilation. Further, he looks at how national, state, and local governments have codified and regulated public-health issues and what the immigrant response has been. Kraut vividly and sympathetically describes the inspection of newcomers at Ellis Island, using both oral history sources and excerpts from the US Public Health Service's Book of Instructions for the Medical Inspection of Immigrants. He demonstrates how health care became a cultural battleground involving the home, the hospital, and the corner drugstore as folk healers and midwives met opposition from physicians and home health nurses, and as quackery thrived. Reliance on Old World remedies - such as tying a potato to the wrist to reduce a fever or using charms to ward off the evil eye - conflicted with the health advice published by such groups as the DAR, eager to turn immigrants into robust Americans. B&w illustrations include photographs that depict actual conditions, as well as drawings that reveal prevalent attitudes and misperceptions.) Absorbing and sobering illumination of a dark corner of the American psyche. (Kirkus Reviews)


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