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Vaccination Controversy in 1892

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

I am an #antique book collector, actually anything antique and medical. I have instruments, barber tools, sterilizers, medicine tins and glass bottles, anything I can find from previous generations used by healers of those times. I especially love old midwifery items, and have an old #DeLee text book, several ancient midwifery texts, and even a douche for cleansing what was always consider the dirty parts of women.

The history (or herstory) of medicine and nursing and even healing is incredibly fascinating and speaks directly to the power of #patriarchy, and its evolution. A simple effort in the research of how women were treated during childbirth during the turn of the century is eye-opening. We can even see this in art or historical photographs, as birthing women we large and powerful, standing and victoriously bring forth life as their attendants were smaller and sitting, assisting in the glorious event. They were then moved to their backs, medicated, and babies were pulled from their womb. Today #physicians stand over women and dictate treatment to them, often without discussion or consent. When you are knowledgeable about our timeline then you'll appreciate that no matter your stance on Roe v Wade from the perspective of life versus choice, reversing this turning point in women's rights will also wipe away all autonomy women are extended today. The physician's opinion on what is best for the unborn child will always take precedence over the mother's desire for understanding and consent.

History will also demonstrate that the witch we have become familiar with today, the ugly woman with a big warty nose standing over her cauldron of mystical potions was the female healer of prior generations misrepresented as scary and villainous. In fact, the cauldron was her mortar and pestle, the mystical potions were her herbs for healing, and her sinful nature was her ability to heal dis-ease not yet understood by the common man of previous days. Our perspective was intentionally shaped with an agenda and so digging in and discovering perspects forgotten or lost through time is a real passion of mine. No doubt what I do today would have branded me a #witch bound for the bonfire back in the day, and this never escapes my awareness. Some days this is more evident to me than others, and although the persecution of women healers isn't as hostile today, to a lesser degree the controversy endures. My being a female, advanced practice nurse with the title of a doctor challenges the #patriarchy and frequently makes me vulnerable to false tales and hateful bullies making false claims. The legends told about me would be funny if they weren't so dehumanizing.

Understanding these evolutions in thought and culture are exceptionally intriguing to me, so to come across a book almost 150 years old discussing the controversy of vaccines gave me chills. Just a few years ago, I was in an old book store in Zionsville, and found a true gem, a nursing text book from 1892 titled, Which? Sanitation and Sanatory Remedies or Vaccination and the Drug Treatment?

This book appears to be one of eight volumes, 362 pages, cloth bound with cut edges. It was authored by Jno Pickering FRGS, FSS, FSA who was also the author of pamphlets on the Vaccination Question in 1871 and 1876 and Editor of the "Anti-Vaccinator and Public Health Journal" for 1872-3.

This book was illustrated with three color plates showing injuries through vaccination. It is stamped by Union Hospital School of Nursing and in 1944 was gifted to the E.M.F. library. I should be using white gloves with this text, as I squeal in delight every time I peek at it - the gem I found here.

These are the parts of history which are erased, allowing us to assume our understanding is the only understanding, the only truth, the only way. Many years ago I recognized the timeline of health improving for our people was not consistent with the introduction of vaccines, but rather with the cleaning of our water system. I've also taken note with the way in which we aren't allowed to critically evaluate the evidence regarding vaccines as we are tasked to do with every other aspect of health science. As an advanced pathophysiology professor myself, when I teach immunology to my graduate level students they are quite forthcoming in how challenging these concepts are and how they feel so inadequate in their knowledge, but then when they ask them about how they will counsel a hesitant parent questioning vaccines they are exceedingly quick to become the authoritarian, yet unable to answer intelligently any of the more common arguments of those opposing routine vaccines. Again, no matter our stance here, the breadth of knowledge is greater than you may perceive. Read with an open mind. This book was a text book for #nurses.

Notices and Correspondences from the Very First Page

These are really quite fascinating in themselves, truly. Even Florence Nightingale made note in November of 1892! That alone gives me chills and she shares regarding the printing of this text, " which I wish every success."

"I rejoice that your great work against Vaccination appears after the establishment of County Councils and the real beginning of the influence of democracy. Why? Because there is a reasonable hope that the House of Commons will not be so overworked as to rest on a staff which is sure to pierce its heart, I mean on the pretence that 'I obey my directors,' i.e. professional medical experts."

Here's where it gets interesting: "Anti-vaccinators have treated a purely civil question, a question for Parliament and private right, as a question for medical experts; and in consequence we were met by many a cry from members of parliament, 'we will not even listen to your arguments.' Happily you appeal to good sense and right and political broad reasoning, such as are fit for legislators, not to statistics kept under medical management; not to arguments which give every advantage to cunning dishonour of truth."

"I trust that out of your treatment of this wretched Vaccination craze will flow, by logical result, the displacement of the medical faculty from lucrative posts from which they are enabled so fatally to misdirect legislation. When it is so clear, that physicians and surgeons cannot gain by the public Health, but can and do gain by public Ill Health and only by Ill Health; one might well ask, 'what wiseacre would trust to them the planning of our laws."

Signed, "with earnest wishes for grand success to your book." - Emeritus Professor F. W. Newman, November 24th, 1892

If we look to another, you'll find similar concerns for the times and praise to the bold author, "Your excellent work strikes the keynote of a complete revolution in medical science and practice. Henceforth, the twin sisters, nature and truth, are to proceed hand-in-hand for the amelioration of the 'ills that flesh is heir to;' while the charlatan nostrums of the faculty are to be cast aside as worse than worthless."

"It is a bold and worthy effort to introduce a rational mode of treatment for small-pox and other eruptive or non-eruptive fevers; which, if universally adopted, would reduce the mortality from those death-causes to a point; and would, to an infinitesimal degree, lessen and shorten the sufferings of the patients. I consider you have delivered the coup de grace to the absurd and fatal practice of Vaccinations."

"I am in full accord with your aims on behalf of suffering humanity, and not only wish your work a wide circulation, but hope your labours will be rewarded by the general adoption of the sanatory principles your advocate." Signed Councillor J. T. Biggs. November 24th, 1982.

Others share statements such as, "Your book is a terrible indictment of the Medical Profession, and of the mistake they have made in pushing the use of disease matters for Inoculation and Vaccination" and continue to support "the science" which "plainly point to the happy alternative - Sanitation."

They also speak to the "disgrace to the faculty that small-pox should be possible in the present stage of sanitary science, since they must know, that had it not been nurtured and kept alive by Inoculation and Vaccination, it must have died out like the other three great epidemics which during the last century desolated Europe."

Another, "My own impression is, that those members of the profession who honestly believe in the efficacy of Vaccination (which is not saying much for their critical acumen), and the general public who have not studied the question, and still believe in it, are both misled by mistaking a coincidence for a cause. It should be plain to the meanest capacity, that from the time (1798) when we ceased to cultivate small-pox by inoculation, there must of necessity be a reduced, and constantly reducing crop of that disease, and in the ordinary course of events the effect would have been attributed to its natural cause, viz.: ceasing to cultivate it by inoculation - aided by improved sanitary arrangements and surroundings. But, most unfortunately, the abandonment of Inoculation was accompanied by the introduction of Vaccination, and the honest portion of the medical profession, and the people at large, erroneously attributed to the latter the credit which undoubtedly belonged to the former..." and this moves into the controversy and propaganda of government officials.

This same writer offers, "The most effective way to uproot Vaccination, and all other medical shams, would be, as you suggest, to pay medical men, not for curing disease, but for preserving health." Some refer to "the Vaccination superstition" and "the absurd notion that no disease ever arises spontaneously," and that it is assumed "that it is always caused by taking into the system a particular microbe or bacillus which causes that disease. Then how did the first case of such febrile disease arise?"

Okay, but here is a quote in the book that really catches my eye... these are the infamous Florence Nightingale's words, written in a letter to the author, dated March 31, 1871. "The case against compulsory vaccination has never been so strongly put as by you, and unless answered by facts, and not by opinions, the question may be considered as decided. Every one who knows anything of public health questions will agree in your views as to the practical unity of epidemics, and their determining causes, and that exception from all alike must be sought not by any one thing, such as vaccination, but by enquiring into and removing the causes of epidemic susceptibility generally. The pamphlet is a very able one, and is in want of a complete answer. Who will do it?"

Another, "I am convinced that Vaccination is the greatest mistake and delusion in the science of medicine; a fanciful illusion in the mind of the discoverer; a phenomenal apparition devoid of scientific foundation, and wanting in all the conditions of scientific possibility." Signed by Dr. Joseph Hermann, Head Physician to the Imperial Hospital, Vienna, from 1858 to 1864.

Okay, well, I am going to dive deep into the - let me remind you - nursing textbook used at university level, from the late 1870s, and I'll update my findings in another blog post. My intention here is not to pour fuel on the fire of the anti-vaccine campaign, but rather to encourage all clinicians and consumers to ask more questions, to appreciate there are other perspectives. When information is received through a funnel without effort, this is an agenda, particularly when we are told what to think and grave consequence comes from independent thinking on the matter. It is the epitome of science to critically analyze all we think to be true and to disallow this, or discredit those who do, is clear evidence of propaganda.

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