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Books, Journals, New Media
May 9, 2001

Caregiver HistoryHearts of Wisdom: American Women Caring for Kin 1850-1940

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available

JAMA. 2001;285(18):2383-2384. doi:10.1001/jama.285.18.2383-JBK0509-5-1

Who takes care of sick Americans? The familiar answer to that question is a team of health professionals, headed by physicians and nurses. But there is another answer: the unsung friends and family members who fill in gaps around what the professionals handle or provide services for those who cannot afford medical care. Historically, these kin washed bodies, cleaned up vomit, pus, and excrement, dressed wounds, sat up with the dying, caught the babies, watched for dangerous symptoms, made treatment decisions, and generally provided a wide range of services without which the sick might get sicker. Hearts of Wisdom focuses on this predominantly female group, untrained except through experience, and describes their activity over the 90-year period 1850 through 1940, a period of significant change and equally great continuity in medical care.

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