WOMEN’S HISTORY and MEASLES: When Mothers voices are not counted as credible through social frames such as not ‘scientific’ and not as ‘men’s values’, and stories not heard of their daily experiences, we distort the reality of children’s lives and the history of medicine. What some, and even many, Mothers said about their children having measles never got published. It still happens today. As a writer at the International Women’s Writing Guild’s conferences, women’s work is marginlized often by value differences and lack of understanding.The debates are often hidden behind gender and work differences seen as genderless debates.
Historically, Men in businesses tied to related industries were driven to ‘conquer’ disease and ‘profit’ from extreme cases of measles that shifted societal beliefs while ignoring many of the mothers and the children that quietly survived “sicknesses”. There is no doubt science and professionals has replaced family care – wiping out generations of oral history and mother’s knowledge and experiences.
Here is a Mother’s scrapbook excerpt: (remember no Tylenol, no medications for children back then was normal)
“Ann’s First Sickness, Measles
January 6, 1968
Ann got up from her afternoon nap at 3:30 with a little fever and till 9:00 at nite she had about 103 fever. She had fever till Monday morning 10:00. Till Monday nite after she had a bath she got a few Measles behind her ears and Tuesday morning she was loaded with them all over and till Thursday they were going away. She was very good all the time after her fever had broke.”
The mother’s scrapbook also listed phone calls and visitors which were relatives showing care and concern including cousins that were young children. Apparently, there was not much fear of other children ‘catching’ measles? The scrapbook also had glued inside a few ‘get well soon’ cards and mentioned ‘gifts’. So cards, gifts, well wishes, visits, phone calls and mother’s care was replaced today by doctor’s visits, science and vaccinations – and more doctor visits and less visiting with relatives and more vaccinations.
The ‘treatment’ was not recorded in this scrapbook except maybe a bath to cool the fever. There is something there about values and concerns of the mother – and the job of mothering illness.
But back then mothers knew that bodies healed themselves. And that rashes and fevers were the body’s natural ‘healing’ process of eliminating whatever the body needed to remove. You just had to take care that it didn’t get ‘extreme’ – and nobody ever learned what makes some people have extreme cases of measles as far as I know. In fact, it’s believed today all measles were a risk of death – but it simply wasn’t the case.
Fevers and rashes as ‘sickness’ to be ‘avoided’ evolved from science with no background and knowledge of the daily, natural healing and care of bodies done by mothers for centuries while men got in the ‘business’ of ‘health’ claiming mother’s stories as ‘old wives tales’. Fevers and rashes themselves became things to eliminate and ‘treat’ because of the ‘extreme cases’. One size fits all model prevail. Measles were never considered to have a ‘spectrum’ nor were vaccinations considered appropriate to vary in ‘dosage’. It was one size fits all and each one got the same treatment. The mass production model of conquering sickness.
Viruses needed to be ‘attacked’ and ‘killed’ by the body’s defenses was the story different than what a mother might consider is happening in the body. Conquering, attacking and killing to avoid ‘sickness’ became the belief. Ironically’, this idea was in contradiction by not actually killing the virus after all. Instead, by introducing the virus doctors supposedly ‘artificially’ ‘pumped’ the immune system so one wouldn’t get the virus. At the same time, auto-immune system became more deficient and suddenly many diseases were considered auto-immune diseases. It seems like the diseases become named with the narrow focus in the latest discoveries of the body. This is the proclaimed as ‘advancements’. Doesn’t that sound a bit non-sensical to anyone?
This was at a time when medical science was so highly valued within systems of power and money that no one outside the elite group could even begin to question the knowledge that was presumed to be way above any layman’s ability to comprehend. Asking a doctor questions was not even allowed as you were only suppose to talk to the nurse. For many, the relationship was obedience.
Rationality never had to mean logical when you obeyed authority. It worked the other way around. What was logical became logical by belief in authority as if authorities were entirely void of irrationality, and 99% men. No questions asked. Men were authority by sexual body part alone in those days at the same time mothers were ‘sentimental, emotional and illogical’. This logic also came with the same mentality and practices, for example, like proscribed Carnation Evaporated Milk as a great substitute for mother’s breast milk, but that’s another story.
According to the contradictions of the popular medical story we still hear, viruses are harmless to humans! They actually can’t ‘live’ by themselves. They need a host. That host is us, our bodies, to give them ‘life’ – to harm us. They became harmful for some unknown reason, supposedly ‘attack’ our bodies and can kill us. Our bodies ‘let’ the viruses take over.
Following with logic, we could say that viruses, therefore, don’t need to be ‘killed’ unless the body hosts them. Why would the body host something that would harm it?
For any woman today that knows about traditional male mentality about violence against women, this ‘logic’ of attack, the bodies without power and killing mentality becomes at least suspect, if not comical. But the problem is too serious to laugh. Some might think even playing around with the logic is, well, heresy. The beliefs are still too respected to question seriously.
So according to scientific popular story, the body malfunctions by hosting a virus. To me, it would make more sense that the body uses and doesn’t use viruses in a process scientists have yet to understand.
According to wikipedia, even though only 5000 viruses out of millions of viruses have been named by medical science, they certainly don’t have 5000 vaccinations available yet. This means they will be in business for a long time. It there are that many viruses around and most all of the time they are harmless, don’t you think that maybe viruses are by nature’s design? I mean, that’s even if the understandings of viruses are indeed what is believed. Maybe health isn’t about conquering, attacking and killing. Just as maybe farming isn’t about conquering, attacking and killing weeds and insects either. But the mentality comes from the two branches of the same tree.
Like terrorists today and witches long ago, viruses scare people and in some cases, rightfully so because we’ve got them connected in beliefs and mixed up with rational and irrational fears of disease, harm, violence and death. Most of us know today now that if you name something, anything from allergies to autism to drugs and crime or Iraq, and produce a ‘war’ to conquer it, the results are usually a proliferation of it. So we do need to really question what is happening – and more importantly, what we believe. But we can’t understand ourselves today, if we don’t know the history of all people – especially the history of our mothers.
The solution is to actually understand better ourselves as humans and what is going on and solve the problem. You think if nature saw fit to have millions of viruses in our environment for reasons unknown to man, then these viruses must have some ‘good’ purpose and that the fact that the human race has survived millions of viruses for years, with a ‘few exceptions’, then maybe viruses aren’t what we think about them. But in fact, a belief that established a business of health care that has turned monsterous and dominates in some ways as churches use to with proclamations of ‘truth’. And as in the past, heresy is punished and fear is too widespread with too much unknown to take risks for many people.
The direct result of humans’ surviving viruses, bacterias, and sicknesses is the fact that all of us who are living today actually exist because of something that has evidently been going ‘right’. But we don’t hear this when big businesses want to dominate and control the health of people. The proliferation of human population is not rooted in vaccinations and the erasure of viruses. In fact, it makes much more sense that, while exceptions exist, when humans live with and by nature, they live well. Often ‘diseases’ are ended when the lifestyles and mistakes of humans with man made inventions are corrected.
Most mothers are too busy to publish books even now that it is possible. 4 out of 5 books we are likely to read today will be published by men. On top of it, Mothers qualify as mothers not by experience but by biology. So not all mother’s voices and experiences should be qualified by the biological entitlement of mother but understood through terms of background and experience. It’s no coincidence that we have young mothers that are at a loss of what to believe. With no foundation for expertise with knowledge and experience like in many other occupations, mothering is voiceless, usurped and distorted by professionals using ‘abtract’ knowledge… and unqualified people alike. Women studies, itself, has mothering as a subject marginalized – because of following the educational structures of an education created by the interests, values and activities of the fathers.
Remember, in not that long ago history, social belief was that men thought women were as children….and ‘opposite’ sex, incapable of rational thinking and high learning and only good ‘barefoot and pregnant’ to be subservient to men as authorities in the home and the social system Home was where women belonged. Male occupations were not for women. And childcare was a task that was below the dignity of any man to show even the slightest interest – except for his power over women and children. It was seen as menial work and not very valued in many places. The results of this are with us. Authorities by ownership of body part systematically results in authorities that have no experience over what they are suppose to be an authority of and controlling. Like CEO’s that may have no clue about what is happening to their millions of customers by a mass production model of service, men were the authority over women and children and often had zero knowledge of ‘women’s work’.
Unfortunately, This is the ground floor of how we got to understand history of medicine we have today.
Women’s experiences and knowledge didn’t get published while men’s stories that didn’t include the daily tasks and knowledge did. Once there was Dr. Spock and now we have Dr. Phil. So the daily task of caring for sick children was not heard by many doctors in training. Instead we got the notable stories. We only got stories from the extreme, rare cases, driven with fear and horror with a narrow focus on sickness and disease. Wellbeing on a daily basis that precluded visiting a doctor has been and is being lost to history. In fact, like Ann’s first sickness above, the rest of daily care for sickness was uneventful and boring as stories and needed no conquering, attacking or killing. The knowledge of what to do in the extreme cases, often became the model to do in all cases. The diseased and dying patients became the ground for treating well patients which often led to treatments that were harmful.
Medical science often used stories from the extreme, rare cases, using fear to participate in medical advice to avoid the worst possible scenario. This approach to living is not always seen as a healthy approach. Often the worst case scenarios never materialize and unfortunately, with training as it is, doctors much less time on what healthy actually is without the disease and diagnosis model – which is the model that mothers used to keep their family healthy. Males in businesses tied to related industries driven to ‘conquer’ and ‘profit’ ran with the extreme and ‘facts’ of diseased and dying which was shifting society while ignoring the majority of mothers and the children that quietly survived “sicknesses”.
There is no doubt science and professionals have replaced family care and, of course, there are positives things about it. I don’t feel the need to go over them because they are well known. I’m only trying to share the part of the story that is often unknown and still often unwritten. That is, the history of mother’s experience and stories. It’s now time to reverse that past and consider that maybe ‘old husband’s tales’ have a bit of superstition as well.