It is hard for us to imagine the experience of parenting in colonial New England, where infectious diseases such as smallpox, measles, and diphtheria swept through communities and over one-fifth of the infants in some communities never lived to see their first birthday. Evidence from the 17th century is particularly sparse. Physicians were almost nonexistent. Mothers no doubt provided much medical care on their own. Educated members of the community, notably clerics and even politicians, represented another source of medical knowledge. In this essay, Dr Howard Pearson uses the writings of one such community leader to provide a window on child health in this distant era. Despite many obvious differences from pediatrics today, the reader will also see points of continuity. Just as patients today seek to contact their physicians by e-mail, it is notable that this colonial “health care provider” conducted much of his practice by mail.
Jeff Baker, MD, PhD
- Accepted June 29, 2010.
- Copyright © 2010 by the American Academy of Pediatrics