Pox: An American History (Penguin History of American Life)

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9780143120780: Pox: An American History (Penguin History of American Life)

The untold story of how America's progressive-era war on smallpox sparked one of the great civil liberties battles of the twentieth century.

At the turn of the last century, a smallpox epidemic swept the United States from coast to coast. In this gripping account, award- winning historian Michael Willrich chronicles the government's fight against the outbreak and the ensuing clash of modern medicine, civil liberties, and state power. Pox introduces readers to memorable characters on both sides of the debate-from the doctors and club- wielding police charged with enforcing the law to vaccinate every citizen to the anti-vaccinationists, who stood up for their individual freedoms but were often dismissed as misguided cranks. Riveting and thoroughly researched, Pox delivers a masterful examination of progressive-era history that resonates powerfully today.

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About the Author:

Michael Willrich is the award-winning author of City of Courts. He is an associate professor of history at Brandeis University and a former journalist who wrote for The Washington Monthly, City Paper, The New Republic, and other magazines. He lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

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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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2012. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. The untold story of how America s progressive-era war on smallpox sparked one of the great civil liberties battles of the twentieth century. At the turn of the last century, a smallpox epidemic swept the United States from coast to coast. In this gripping account, award- winning historian Michael Willrich chronicles the government s fight against the outbreak and the ensuing clash of modern medicine, civil liberties, and state power. Pox introduces readers to memorable characters on both sides of the debate-from the doctors and club- wielding police charged with enforcing the law to vaccinate every citizen to the anti-vaccinationists, who stood up for their individual freedoms but were often dismissed as misguided cranks. Riveting and thoroughly researched, Pox delivers a masterful examination of progressive-era history that resonates powerfully today. Bookseller Inventory # BZV9780143120780

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2012. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. The untold story of how America s progressive-era war on smallpox sparked one of the great civil liberties battles of the twentieth century. At the turn of the last century, a smallpox epidemic swept the United States from coast to coast. In this gripping account, award- winning historian Michael Willrich chronicles the government s fight against the outbreak and the ensuing clash of modern medicine, civil liberties, and state power. Pox introduces readers to memorable characters on both sides of the debate-from the doctors and club- wielding police charged with enforcing the law to vaccinate every citizen to the anti-vaccinationists, who stood up for their individual freedoms but were often dismissed as misguided cranks. Riveting and thoroughly researched, Pox delivers a masterful examination of progressive-era history that resonates powerfully today. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780143120780

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