Writing the numbers: The role of statistics in vaccination campaigns and Progressive Era public health literature Open Access

Ehlinger, Maija-Liisa Jurva (2014)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/f1881m23n?locale=en


The history of public health is more a story of false starts than it is a triumphalist narrative about creating a healthier society. This is particularly true in the history of American vaccination campaigns, when social and scientific shifts during the Progressive Era created a strong anti-vaccinationist movement in cities like Boston and Philadelphia. An examination of circulars, pamphlets and newspapers - written by prominent members of health departments and opposition groups alike - displays how statistics informed the public about medical advances during the Progressive Era. Both sides of the debate gathered statistics from four distinct areas - foreign countries, previous epidemic studies, individual doctors and from their own investigative research within recently vaccinated communities. Distributing such statistics changed how the public understood preventative health measures like vaccination and how ideas about health were communicated.

Table of Contents

I. Introduction -------Smallpox and Vaccination in Society------------------------1

II. Chapter One------Social and scientific trends in the Progressive Era--------- 8

III. Chapter Two------Statistics as a health communication tool-----------------19

IV. Chapter Three----Statistics for anti-vaccinationists---------------------------30

V. Conclusion----------------------------------------------------------------------- 44

VI. Works Cited---------------------------------------------------------------------47

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