The Puritans Were America's First Anti-VaxxersRoundup
tags: medicine, Puritans, Vaccination, Vaccine
A plague is a busy time for a man of the cloth.
Cotton Mather was the most prominent clergyman in colonial Boston, the last in a line of preachers who had provided spiritual solace to the city from the beginning. Yet when he looked down from his pulpit in the fall of 1702 he saw his congregation dwindling by the day.
With funerals “daily celebrated and multiplied,” as he noted in his journal, the usual Puritan terrors of devils and Indians were replaced in public consciousness with fears of the “fevers and fluxes” that spread by the sad magic of human touch and breath.
Though best known for lighting the fuse of the Salem Witch Trials, Mather faced his greatest challenge not in the imagined spiritual malady of a few girls claiming to be hexed, but in the very real epidemic of small pox. His efforts to fight it, and his willingness to skirt theological orthodoxy in doing so, might stand today as a model for religious leaders to speak out against an anti-vaccine movement that represents a dangerous intersection of medical ignorance and misplaced spiritual confidence that Mather knew well.
By the reckoning of historians of the day, small pox made an appearance in Boston roughly every twenty years, always with disastrous effect....
comments powered by Disqus
- 1619 Project: New York Times Magazine Publishes Special Edition Dedicated to American Slavery and Its Legacies
- National Security Archive Releases New Briefing Book on Chernobyl through the Eyes of the Soviet Politburo, KGB, and U.S. Intelligence
- Before Trump eyed Greenland: Here’s what happened last time the US bought a large chunk of the Arctic
- Illinois Governor Signs Bill Mandating Public Schools Teach LGBTQ History
- Controversial Monument to Women’s Suffrage Redesigned to Include Sojourner Truth
- Historian Elizabeth Hinton Profiled in Harvard Magazine: Color and Incarceration
- 'Clearly, he did not take part in our curriculum': Historians bash Ken Cuccinelli's revised Statue of Liberty Poem
- The Increasing Popularity of Hotel Historians
- If You Call It History, You’ve Got to Do History’: Historians Chafe at a Video That Omitted Their University’s Whites-Only Origins
- Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum gets grants to help publish Abraham Lincoln papers