By: Lewis B. Hershey
Date: July 1941
Source: Hershey, Lewis B. "The Lessons of the Selective Service." Survey Graphic, July 1941, p. 383. Available at the New Deal Network online at http://newdeal.feri.org/survey/sg41383.htm; website home page at http://newdeal.feri.org (accessed March 18, 2003).
About the Author: General Lewis B. Hershey (1893–1977) worked as deputy director of the Selective Service, the government agency in charge of drafting men for military service, before serving as its director from 1941 to 1970.
Seeking Men to Fight
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, triggering U.S. involvement in World War II (1939–1945), the American military had to mobilize quickly. The Selective Service had already begun examining men of draft age and had found that many did not meet the physical standards the armed forces required of soldiers.
The "lesson" was not new. A study of World War I (1914–1918) draftees had found that out of each 1,000 men examined, 468 had at least one defect that rendered them unfit for full military...
(The entire section is 1148 words.)
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"The Job Ahead"
By: Thomas Parran
Date: July 1941
Source: Parran, Thomas. "The Job Ahead." Survey Graphic, July 1941. Available at the New Deal Network online at http://newdeal.feri.org/survey/sg41396.htm; website home page at http://newdeal.feri.org (accessed April 18, 2003).
About the Author: Thomas Parran (1892–1968) was surgeon general during most of President Franklin Roosevelt's administration (1933–1945). Known for his active promotion of many public health initiatives, Parran was behind campaigns against venereal disease, malnutrition, and other conditions.
In the wake of the Great Depression of the 1930s, public health officials were well aware that many Americans suffered the lingering effects of malnutrition (not eating a balanced diet) and undernutrition (not eating enough of any sort of food). They were equally aware that this was in large part because people could not afford to buy nutritious foods. Fresh food was more healthful but also more expensive. Lean meat was better than white "fat" meat such as salt pork but cost a lot more. Paul McNutt, the Federal Security Administrator, wrote:...
(The entire section is 1542 words.)
"The Diagnostic Value of Vaginal Smears in Carcinoma of the Uterus"
By: George N. Papanicolaou and Herbert F. Traut
Date: August 1941
Source: Papanicolaou, George N., and Herbert F. Traut. "The Diagnostic Value of Vaginal Smears in Carcinoma of the Uterus." The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 42, no. 2 (August 1941): 193–206.
About the Primary Author: George Papanicolaou (1883–1962), who gave his name in shortened form to the Pap smear, was born in Greece, but he and his wife moved to the United States in 1913. His work in the estrous cycle in mice led to the first isolation of estrogen. This interest led to the work with cancer that eventually made him famous. He was a member of the Cornell University faculty for several years, and after his work gained widespread acceptance, he won numerous awards, including the Honor Award of the American Cancer Society.
Cervical cancer and other cancers of the female reproductive organs were not widely discussed in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in part because of prevailing Victorian notions of modesty. While cancer was the eighth leading cause of death in 1900, for women, cancer of the reproductive organs was the leading cause of cancer deaths. In the early twentieth century, cervical cancer...
(The entire section is 1659 words.)
"The Mold Penicillium"
By: Charles Hill
Date: November 1941
Source: Hill, Charles. "The Mold Penicillium." Science Supplement 94 (2447): November 21, 1941.
About the Publication: Science was and remains one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world. Published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the journal has reported the results of hundreds of studies that have marked vital advances in science and medicine. Publishing an account of penicillin very shortly after it had been produced in purified form suggests that the scientists who edited the journal immediately recognized the revolutionary nature of the drug.
"Penicillin Shown to Cure Syphilis"
By: The New York Times
(The entire section is 2539 words.)
"Cut Excess Weight, Women Are Urged"
By: The New York Times
Date: November 9, 1942
Source: "Cut Excess Weight, Women Are Urged." The New York Times, November 9, 1942.
About the Organization: Since the publication of this table in 1942, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company has continued to set standards for height/weight ratios that are widely followed by the public and health-care providers.
Nutrition was a major public health concern before and during World War II (1939–1945). Public health officials initially worried that people's diets were inadequate both in terms of containing enough calories and enough key nutrients. During the 1930s the Depression had left many people underweight as they struggled to find enough food of any sort.
By the second year of the U.S. involvement in the war, however, the situation had changed. Unemployment was low as more people joined the wartime workforce or the military. They worked hard and long and made enough money to buy the food they needed. Although the country had an ample supply of most food items, it also had to feed the troops at home and overseas and attempt to help its allies who were suffering food shortages.
Perhaps as both a...
(The entire section is 1170 words.)
"America Is Learning What to Eat"
Newspaper article, Illustration
By: Clive M. McCoy
Date: March 28, 1943
Source: "America Is Learning What to Eat." The New York Times, March 28, 1943.
About the Author: Clive M. McCoy was a professor of nutrition at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, a school well known for its research in agriculture and human nutrition.
The traditional American diet in the early twentieth century wasn't fancy. The Great Depression of the 1930s left many households short of money, forcing housewives to stretch their food dollars further. While they did have to worry about affording food, they did not have to wonder whether they could find the foods they wanted to buy. A standard cookbook published in 1931 lists dinner menus that include meat, potatoes, several vegetables, bread or rolls, and dessert—sometimes all preceded by an appetizer of soup or salad. A recipe for beef stroganoff required 1.5 pounds of beef filet for four servings, or six ounces per serving. That was one meal; breakfast and the midday meal often also included meat. Cakes, cookies, and other sweets were standard fare. The result was that Americans could, and did, eat more than they needed.
Americans experienced many changes after the...
(The entire section is 2330 words.)
"Demerol, Newly Marketed as a Synthetic Substitute For Morphine, Ranks With Sulfa Drugs and Penicillin"
By: The Wall Street Journal
Date: August 31, 1943
Source: "Demerol, Newly Marketed as a Synthetic Substitute For Morphine, Ranks With Sulfa Drugs and Penicillin." The Wall Street Journal, August 31, 1943.
Pain has existed as long as creatures have had nervous systems. Humans have sought ways to reduce or eliminate pain for millennia. Painkillers fall into two categories: anti-inflammatory drugs, which reduce pain caused by inflammation, and opiates, such as opium, which affect the central nervous system. Many of the opiates that reduce pain are addictive and have effects on the central nervous system that reduce their safety.
Alcoholic spirits, although not strictly a painkiller, were given to those who had to undergo painful, sometimes excruciating, procedures or who suffered from painful injuries. Alcohol's primary effect was to cause the victim who ingested enough to pass out. While this did indeed spare the person pain, alcohol's depressant effect on the central nervous system created a potentially dangerous situation.
Perhaps the earliest safe, though mild, painkillers were the aspirin-like substances that the ancient Greeks and Romans extracted from the bark of the willow...
(The entire section is 882 words.)
"Tell 37-Year Rise in Better Eating"
By: The New York Times
Date: July 19, 1946
Source: "Tell 37-Year Rise in Better Eating." The New York Times, July 19, 1946.
The first four decades of the twentieth century were an era of rapid ups and downs in the nation's economic state. These fluctuations were mirrored in Americans' well-being, including their diets. The prosperous 1920s brought no national food shortages, but scientific research on nutrition was still in its infancy. The 1930s were a decade of want for many, and even people who ate sufficient calories may not have been eating enough nutritious foods. The 1940s and World War II (1939–1945) created a new situation for nutrition. Although food supplies were adequate, America faced the extra task of feeding troops and helping its allies.
Studies of particular populations, particularly draftage men, had found that many suffered from nutritional deficiencies. The early years of the war saw many women becoming overweight from eating too much and, perhaps, not being active enough. Thus, the USDA's long-range, large-scale look at American's eating habits was a useful look at the bigger picture.
The USDA report was issued three years after another branch of the...
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By: U.S. Congress
Date: August 13, 1946
Source: Hill-Burton Act, August 13, 1946. Available at the Schiller Institute online at http://www.schillerinstitute.org/health/hill_burton.html; website home page at (accessed March 18, 2003).
In 1800, the United States had two hospitals: New York Hospital in New York City and Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. Before the days of antiseptic, or anti-infection, procedures, contagion in hospitals could pose a danger greater than disease or injury. Patients were looked after at home by families and physicians who spent a good deal of their time making house calls. By the beginning of the twentieth century, however, more people began to turn to hospital care for a number of reasons. By the 1920s, hospitals were booming. In 1922, Americans spent approximately 53 million days in the hospital, which represented one day for every two people. Hospital construction also flourished, with a total of $890 million spent between 1925 and 1929, an 80 percent increase over the previous five years.
The rise of scientific medicine made possible by increased knowledge and new pharmaceuticals gave hospitals more to offer. Diseases once...
(The entire section is 875 words.)
The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care
By: Benjamin Spock, M.D.
Source: Spock, Benjamin. The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1946.
About the Author: Benjamin Spock (1903–1998) was the oldest of six children. He graduated from Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1929. After training as a pediatrician, he sought further education in psychology and psychoanalysis in an effort to understand the emotional needs of babies and children. First published in 1946, The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care has produced multiple editions, sold millions, and remains a popular and trusted source of information for parents.
With the end of World War II (1939–1945), Americans wanted a quick return to normal life. Millions of couples settled down in the suburbs that were growing around the cities and produced what became known as the baby boom generation. As the birthrate soared so did the number of questions that mothers and fathers had about the best way to raise children.
Like all new parents these mothers and fathers wanted to do what was right for their children, and plenty of experts were ready to advise them. The experts of the time, notably...
(The entire section is 3144 words.)
"Text of Truman Plea for Public Health Program"
By: Harry S. Truman
Date: May 19, 1947
Source: Truman, Harry S. "Text of Truman Plea for Public Health Program." Reprint of Truman's speech in The New York Times, May 19, 1945.
About the Author: President Harry S. Truman (1884–1972) was born in Missouri. After serving as a U.S. senator and later as vice president during Franklin D. Roosevelt's final term, Truman became president in April 1945, and served in that office until 1953. He had backed Roosevelt in his New Deal policies during the 1930s and proposed his own "Fair Deal" legislation in the 1940s and early 1950s.
The first crusade for some sort of national health insurance began around the beginning of the twentieth century. It was the product of the Progressive movement, a political reform effort whose backers sought to reduce, if not eliminate, social inequities caused by poverty and failures of justice.
The American reformers were following in the steps of their European counterparts, with one important exception. In other countries, the movements succeeded, at least to a degree. In 1883 Germany became the first nation to protect workers who could not work because of disease or injury. Other countries quickly followed suit. By...
(The entire section is 2290 words.)
"Drug Aiding Fight on Tuberculosis"
By: The New York Times
Date: December 4, 1947
Source: "Drug Aiding Fight on Tuberculosis." The New York Times, December 4, 1947.
About the Scientists: This article reported on the research of Selman A. Waksman (1888–1973) and Hubert A. Lechevalier. They worked at Rutgers University in New Jersey and were among the foremost bacteriologists of the era. Five years earlier they had announced the development of streptomycin, the first pharmaceutical agent that effectively treated tuberculosis.
The first drug used to treat tuberculosis was streptomycin, a relative of penicillin that was derived from antibiotic substances found in the soil. The drug, introduced in 1945, was effective for a while but, as has been happening continuously since the development of antibiotics, the bacteria began to develop strains that resisted the effects of the drugs, rendering them powerless. At the same time, it produced toxic effects to the nervous system. Other drugs were added to the treatment regime, but they, too, were followed by the development of resistant bacteria.
Meanwhile, the number of cases of tuberculosis continued to grow. In 1949 the National Tuberculosis Association estimated...
(The entire section is 1259 words.)
State Mental Hospitals
The Shame of the States
By: Albert Deutsch
Source: Deutsch, Albert. The Shame of the States. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1948.
About the Author: Albert Deutsch (1905–1961) was a well-known investigative journalist in the 1930s and author of multiple books.
The Snake Pit
By: Mary Jane Ward
Source: Ward, Mary Jane. The Snake Pit. New York: Random House, 1946.
About the Author: Mary Jane Ward (1905–1981) was a novelist who suffered a mental breakdown and wrote an autobiographical novel of her experience in a state hospital.
Several schools of psychology and psychiatry gained prominence in the 1930s and 1940s. One was the mental hygiene movement, pioneered by Clifford Beers and championed by many physicians and other health-care workers. A second was talk therapy, or psychoanalysis, pioneered by the Austrian physician Sigmund Freud in the early twentieth century. A third consisted of the so-called "somatic" therapies, which held that physical...
(The entire section is 2920 words.)
Sexual Behavior in the Human Male
By: Alfred C. Kinsey
Source: Kinsey, Alfred C., Wardell B. Pomeroy, and Clyde E. Martin. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Company, 1948.
About the Author: Alfred C. Kinsey (1894–1956) was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. The son of an engineering instructor and a homemaker, he worked his way through college and then was employed as an instructor in biology and zoology at Harvard University while working for his doctorate degree. After becoming one of the world's experts on the gall wasp, Kinsey abruptly changed directions and began studying humans. His first study, the controversial and pioneering Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, was published in 1948.
Sexual drive is a basic human instinct, like eating and sleeping. In the mid-twentieth century, however, few people talked about sex openly, and scholarly books on the subject relied largely on generalizations, not on interviews with people. The most prominent sex researcher before Kinsey was Havelock Ellis, a physician. Ellis's massive two-volume work, Studies in the Psychology of Sex, was first published in Germany in 1897. When Ellis had it published in English, however, the result was a tangled and...
(The entire section is 2862 words.)
"27,658 Polio Cases Listed Last Year"
By: The New York Times
Source: "27,658 Polio Cases Listed Last Year." The New York Times, 1949.
About the Organization: This newspaper article summarizes the findings of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. The foundation's creation was announced in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (served 1933–45). By its tenth year, the foundation was the major supporter of polio research and treatment in the United States.
In the years after the founding of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, the number of polio cases continued to grow. The years after World War II (1939–1945) were particularly bad. The increase in cases reflected the rapid growth in the most susceptible segment of the population, children. The postwar baby boom, unfortunately, fueled a parallel explosion of polio cases.
Treatment methods were essentially a matter of trying to keep people alive and to minimize the disease's
(The entire section is 1236 words.)