Silent Travelers: Germs, Genes, and the Immigrant Menace / Edition 1

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Epidemics and immigrants have suffered a lethal association in the public mind, from the Irish in New York wrongly blamed for the cholera epidemic of 1832 and Chinese in San Francisco vilified for causing the bubonic plague in 1900, to Haitians in Miami stigmatized as AIDS carriers in the 1980s. Silent Travelers vividly describes these and many other episodes of medicalized prejudice and analyzes their impact on public health policy and beyond. The book shows clearly how the equation of disease with outsiders and illness with genetic inferiority broadly affected not only immigration policy and health care but even the workplace and schools. The first synthesis of immigration history and the history of medicine, Silent Travelers is also a deeply human story, enriched by the voices of immigrants themselves. Irish, Italian, Jewish, Latino, Chinese, and Cambodian newcomers among others grapple in these pages with the mysteries of modern medicine and American prejudice. Anecdotes about famous and little-known figures in the annals of public health abound, from immigrant physicians such as Maurice Fishberg and Antonio Stella who struggled to mediate between the cherished Old World beliefs and practices of their patients and their own state-of-the-art medical science, to "Typhoid Mary" and the inspiring example of Mother Cabrini. Alan M. Kraut tells of the newcomers founding of hospitals to care for their own the "Halls of Great Peace" (actually little more than hovels where lepers could go to die) set up by Chinese immigrants; the establishment of St. Vincent's Hospital in New York as an institution sensitive to the needs of Catholic patients; and the creation of a tuberculosis sanitarium in Denver by Eastern European Jewish tradespeople who managed to scrape together $1.20 in contributions at their first meeting. Tapping into a rich array of sources - from turn-of-the-century government records to an advice book aimed at Italians financed by the DAR, from the photog
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Editorial Reviews

New York Times

Fascinating... Kraut's narrative shows that it has always been easier to blame immigrants for epidemics than to attack the infrastructure of the disease.

Annals of Internal Medicine

Kraut chronicles the medical assimilation of immigrants through a series of public health and curative initiatives... For those interested in the public and private response to immigrant health problems, this book is a great read.

Library Journal
Fear of the ``other'' has long been part of life in America. Historian Kraut chronicles that fear as it manifests itself as fear of contamination by new immigrants. He describes how health policy was and is used to segregate communities and to exclude classes of people from entry into the United States. In particular, he looks closely at tuberculosis, cholera, and bubonic plague and at the institutional and governmental response to health crises. Kraut also emphasizes the importance of culturally relevant medicine and how it has come into conflict with the desire to Americanize the immigrants. These are important issues today, when tuberculosis and AIDS are often viewed as outsider's diseases, as when Haitians were singled out as a nation of AIDS carriers. No other current volume covers immigration and health from a historical perspective. The material is well presented and engrossing. Recommended for all history and health collections.-- Eric D. Albright, Galter Health Sciences Lib., Northwestern Univ., Chicago
Traces the American tradition of suspicion of the unassimilated, from the cholera outbreak of the 1830s through the great waves of immigration that began in the 1890s, to the recent past, when the erroneous association of Haitians with the AIDS virus brought widespread panic and discrimination. Kraut (history, American U.) found that new immigrant populations--made up of impoverished laborers living in urban America's least sanitary conditions--have been victims of illness rather than its progenitors, yet the medical establishment has often blamed epidemics on immigrants' traditions, ethnic habits, or genetic heritage. Originally published in hardcover by Basic Books in 1994. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801850967
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 5/1/1995
  • Edition description: Johns Hopkins paperbacks ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 369
  • Sales rank: 198,242
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Double Helix of Health and Fear
1 "The Breath of Other People Killed Them": First Encounters
2 "A Scourge, a Rod in the Hand of God": Epidemics and the Irish Mid-Century
3 "Proper Precautions": Searching for Illness on Ellis Island
4 A Plague of Nativism: The Cases of Chick Gin and "Typhoid Mary"
5 "That Is the American Way. And in America You Should Do as Americans Do": Italian Customs, American Standards
6 Gezunthayt iz besser vi Krankhayt: Fighting the Stigma of the "Jewish Disease"
7 "The Old Inquisition Had Its Rack and Thumbscrews": Immigrant Health and the American Workplace
8 "There Could Also Be Magic in Barbarian Medicine": American Nurses, Physicians, and Quacks
9 "East Side Parents Storm the Schools": Public Schools and Public Health
10 "Viruses and Bacteria Don't Ask for a Green Card": New Immigrants and Old Fears
Appendix I: Classification of Excludable Medical Conditions According to the 1903 Book of Instructions for the Medical Inspection of Immigrants
Appendix II: Classification of Excludable Medical Conditions According to the 1917 Book of Instructions for the Medical Inspection of Immigrants
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