Dear Dr. Spock: Letters about the Vietnam War to America's Favorite Baby Doctor

Dear Dr. Spock: Letters about the Vietnam War to America's Favorite Baby Doctor

by Michael Foley
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

At the height of the Vietnam War, thousands of Americans wrote moving letters to Dr. Benjamin Spock, America’s pediatrician and a high-profile opponent of the war. Personal and heartfelt, thoughtful and volatile, these missives from Middle America provide an intriguing glimpse into the conflicts that took place over the dinner table as people wrestled with

See more details below

Overview

At the height of the Vietnam War, thousands of Americans wrote moving letters to Dr. Benjamin Spock, America’s pediatrician and a high-profile opponent of the war. Personal and heartfelt, thoughtful and volatile, these missives from Middle America provide an intriguing glimpse into the conflicts that took place over the dinner table as people wrestled with this divisive war and with their consciences.

Providing one of the first clear views of the home front during the war, Dear Dr. Spock collects the best of these letters and offers a window into the minds of ordinary Americans. They wrote to Spock because he was familiar, trustworthy, and controversial. His book Baby and Child Care was on the shelves of most homes, second only to the Bible in the number of copies sold. Starting in the 1960s, his activism in the antinuclear and antiwar movements drew mixed reactions from Americans—some puzzled, some supportive, some angry, and some desperate.

Most of the letters come from what Richard Nixon called the “silent majority”—white, middleclass, law-abiding citizens who the president thought supported the war to contain Communism. In fact, the letters reveal a complexity of reasoning and feeling that moves far beyond the opinion polls at the time. One mother of young children struggles to imagine how Vietnamese women could endure after their village was napalmed, while another chastises Spock for the “dark shadow” he had cast on the country and pledges to instill love of country in her sons.

What emerges is a portrait of articulate Americans struggling mightily to understand government policies in Vietnam and how those policies did or did not reflect their own sense of themselves and their country.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
From thousands of letters written to Dr. Benjamin Spock during the Vietnam War, Foley (Confronting the War Machine: Draft Resistance During the Vietnam War) has carefully culled 218 missives from America's "silent majority." The result, revealing the home-front experience of the war from 1965 to 1972, reflects a public opinion that was not monolithic but rather characterized by "nuance, subtlety, and... ambivalence." As the iconic author of the 1950s child-rearing bible, Baby and Child Care, and a leading antiwar figure, Spock was a lightning rod for both the war's opponents and proponents. These passionate, articulate letters come from the parents of soldiers serving in Vietnam and of sons facing the draft, student protesters, soldiers serving in Vietnam, WWII veterans, and draft resisters in both the U.S. and Canada. They praise Spock and vilify him. Arranged chronologically by year and thematically within each year (e.g., peace proposals, war and children, anticommunism), with historical context and analysis, the collection doesn't really shed new light on that era, but in view of divisiveness over the war in Iraq, many may find the frustration, fear and grief expressed here newly relevant. B&w photos. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

“The letters collected contain an array of opinions about the war, of both the hawk and dove variety. The scores of letters in this collection both praise and vilify Dr. Spock for his antiwar activism.”
-The VVA Veteran

“These letters—with Michael S. Foley's astute and informed commentary—make clear why and how so many Americans trusted Benjamin Spock. The body politic sorely needs a Doctor Spock today.”
-James Carroll,author of Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War

“Foley has discovered a unique source on the American home front during the Vietnam War, a perspective that moves us past the usual images of angry polarization. These powerful letters help us to consider how war-times induce people to look with new eyes at their nation and their government.”
-David Farber,author of The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s

“From thousands of letters written to Dr. Benjamin Spock during the Vietnam War, Foley has carefully culled 218 missives from America’s silent majority. . . . Many may find the frustration, fear and grief expressed here newly relevant.”
-Publishers Weekly

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780814727768
Publisher:
New York University Press
Publication date:
11/01/2005
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
281
Sales rank:
1,190,175
File size:
3 MB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

“The letters collected contain an array of opinions about the war, of both the hawk and dove variety. The scores of letters in this collection both praise and vilify Dr. Spock for his antiwar activism.”
-The VVA Veteran

,

“From thousands of letters written to Dr. Benjamin Spock during the Vietnam War, Foley has carefully culled 218 missives from America’s silent majority. . . . Many may find the frustration, fear and grief expressed here newly relevant.”
-Publishers Weekly

,

“These letters—with Michael S. Foley's astute and informed commentary—make clear why and how so many Americans trusted Benjamin Spock. The body politic sorely needs a Doctor Spock today.”
-James Carroll,author of Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War

“Foley has discovered a unique source on the American home front during the Vietnam War, a perspective that moves us past the usual images of angry polarization. These powerful letters help us to consider how war-times induce people to look with new eyes at their nation and their government.”
-David Farber,author of The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s

“Few documentary collections offer such an immediate connection to the years in which the Vietnam War was fought. Reading these letters now, when the U.S. is once again at war, is a profoundly moving experience.”
-Marilyn B. Young,author of The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >