- Series: Penguin History of American Life
- Hardcover: 432 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Press; 1 edition (March 31, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594202869
- ISBN-13: 978-1594202865
- Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,216,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Pox: An American History (Penguin History of American Life) 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Today's controversies over vaccinations pale beside the pitched battles fought at the turn of the 20th century, to judge by this probing work. Historian Willrich (City of Courts) revisits the smallpox epidemic that ravaged the United States from 1898 to 1904 and sparked a showdown between the burgeoning Progressive-era regulatory regime and Americans fearful of the new Leviathan state and the specter of "state medicine." Anxious to stamp out the contagion, public health officials in the South quarantined African-Americans in detention camps if they were suspected of carrying the disease and vaccinated others at gunpoint; in New York "paramilitary vaccination squads" raided immigrant tenements, forcibly inoculating residents and dragging infected children off to pesthouses; their coercive methods sparked occasional riots and lawsuits that helped remake constitutional law. Willrich sees merit on both sides: draconian public health measures saved thousands of lives, but resisters did have legitimate concerns about vaccine safety and side effects, racial targeting and bodily integrity. He does tend to romanticize anti-vaccine activists, whose movement he associates with feminism, free speech, and abolitionism, styling them as "libertarian radicals" engaging in "intimate acts of civil disobedience." Still, his lucid, well-written, empathetic study of a fascinating episode shows why the vaccine issue still pricks the American conscience. Photos. (Apr. 4)
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"Willrich's account of the early days of the American progressive movement couldn't be more instructive or timely...a worthy read."
-"Booklist" (starred review)
"Willrich melds meticulous research with elegant writing to create a richly- textured social history...at the charged intersection of science, politics, race, and culture...You'll never think the same way again about the now all-but- mechanical ritual of rolling up your shirtsleeve for a vaccine needle."
-Hampton Sides, author of "Hellhound on His Trail"
..".In the highly skilled hands of Michael Willrich, hard cases make great history. We all have much to learn from this excellent book."
-David Hackett Fischer, author of "Champlain's Dream" and "Washington's Crossing"
"A fascinating, fast-paced story of America's last major smallpox epidemic...This is history at its best written by a master of his craft."
-Michael J. Klarman, author of "From Jim Crow to Civil Rights"
"Pox --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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The last case of smallpox in the US was in NYC in a Mexican tourist, who recovered...Read more