Formative Years

Children's Health in the United States, 1880-2000
Alexandra Minna Stern and Howard Markel, Editors
Sheds light on the development of the fields of pediatrics and child health during the last century


Much has changed in the lives of children, and in the health care provided to them, over the past century. Formative Years explores how children's lives have become increasingly medicalized, traces the emergence of the fields of pediatrics and child health, and offers fascinating case studies of important and timely issues.

With contributions from historians and physicians, this collection illuminates some of the most important transformations in children's health in the United States since the 1880s. Opening with a history of pediatrics as a medical specialty, the book addresses such topics as the formulation of normal growth curves, Better Babies contests at county fairs, the "discovery" of the sexual abuse of children, and the political radicalism of the founder of pediatrics, Dr. Abraham Jacobi.

One of the first long-term historical and analytical overviews of pediatrics and child health in the twentieth century, Formative Years will be a welcome addition to several fields, including the history of medicine and technology, the history of childhood, modern U.S. history, women's history, and American studies. It also has ramifications for policymakers concerned with child welfare and development and poses important questions about the direction of children's health in the twenty-first century.

Alexandra Minna Stern is Associate Director of the Center for the History of Medicine and Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and American Culture at the University of Michigan.

Howard Markel is the George Edward Wantz Professor of the History of Medicine, Professor of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases, and Professor of History at the University of Michigan, where he directs the Center for the History of Medicine.

Praise / Awards

  • "This edited volume of essays chronicles 120 years of children's health in the United States. The stimulating, well-referenced, diverse essays provide an excellent broad view of children's health from the historical perspective. It should be read by anyone interested in the health and social well-being of children."
    --Catherine D. DeAngelis, Editor-in-Chief, Journal of the American Medical Association
  • "This book adds a needed dimension to the history of childhood in the United States. Bringing together some of the most innovative historians of children's health, the book transcends the boundaries between clinical medicine and social history. This will be a valuable text for scholars and students alike and will provide an invaluable perspective to the discussion of the place and value of children in American society."
    --David Rosner, Professor and Director, Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health, Columbia University
  • "Few topics in American social history have been studied more vigorously in the last decade than children and childhood, and no subject has been more important to Americans of all ages than the assault on disease and the revolution in medical care. Yet remarkably little has been done to bring the two together--until now. This exceptional collection combines the insights and learning of historians and medical doctors to reveal a current of American life that was, in all senses, vital."
    --Elliott West, Professor of History, University of Arkansas
  • "An outstanding collection of pathbreaking essays examining the history of American pediatrics from both a scientific and a cultural perspective. The most notable work on American pediatrics yet written."
    --Kenneth M. Ludmerer, Professor of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis
  • "The history in this book is a fascinating journey through a critical period of our nation's growth, seen through the experiences of and attention to our children. I highly recommend this book for a variety of study areas, as well as for enlightening American citizens to societal impacts on its most vulnerable population."
    --Barbara Woodman, Academia: An Online Magazine and Resource for Academic Librarians, September 2002
  • "a remarkable book. . . . [A] portrayal of the development of child health as influenced by the social roots and pressing issues of the time. The chapters show the important role that women had, in concert with the emerging pediatricians, in shaping health systems for children."
    --John Neff, M.D., Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, March 2003
  • ". . . a wonderful addition to the study of children in America."
    --Susan L. Smith, University of Alberta, Journal of American History, September 2003
  • ". . . a significant contribution to the history of medicine and child health, opening up fascinating areas of research that would benefit from similar analysis in other countries."
    --Linda Bryder, University of Auckland, Medical History, October 2003
  • ". . . good reading for everyone interested in the development of pediatrics and child health in the United States."
    --John E. Lewy, M.D., Tulane Medical School, New England Journal of Medicine, March

Look Inside

Copyright © 2002, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted June 2002.

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Product Details

  • 392 pages.
  • 4 drawings, 10 B&W photographs.
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  • 2009
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  • 978-0-472-02503-9

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