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Anti-vaccination and the Politics of Grief for Children in Late Victorian England

  • Lydia Murdoch
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Emotions book series (Palgrave Studies in the History of Emotions)

Abstract

This chapter sets out to explore the public and explicitly political forms of mourning for children in nineteenth-century England, using the protest movement against compulsory smallpox vaccination for infants as a case study. In Victorian England, grief took on new communal forms often associated with the body and material culture. For example, Jay’s London General Mourning Warehouse on Regent Street opened in 1841, providing elite mourners with fashionable clothing and setting off a commercial industry. It was here that wealthy women could purchase black mourning dresses from the required ‘list of silks, crapes, paramattas, cashmeres, grenadines, and tulles’ to meet the latest fashions that changed, according to Jay’s, ‘not only every month, but well-nigh every week’.1 Less well-off women resorted to pawnshops, borrowed dresses or dyed one of their own black out of respect for the dead.2 The private emotional state of bereavement for the Victorians typically took public and visible, physical forms, epitomized but by no means monopolized by the ‘halo of commercial grandeur’ within Messrs. W. Jay and Company’s expanded shop.3 Funerals became grandiose affairs, from the state service marking the Duke of Wellington’s death in 1852 (where the hearse alone cost £11,000) to working-class burials that nearly always left surviving family members in debt.4

Keywords

Child Death Child Life Bodily Matter Daily Telegraph Pulsory Vaccination 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Richard Davey, A History of Mourning (London: Jay’s, 1889), 95. I am grateful for comments and suggestions on this chapter from Nadja Durbach, Andrew Evans and Stephanie Olsen. I also thank the Elinor Nims Brink Fund of Vassar College for its generous support of this research.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ellen Ross, Love and Toil: Motherhood in Outcast London, 1870–1918 (Oxford University Press, 1993), 193;Google Scholar
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  4. 4.
    On Wellington’s funeral, see Gerhard Joseph and Herbert F. Tucker, ‘Passing On: Death’, in Herbert F. Tucker (ed.), A Companion to Victorian Literature and Culture (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), 110–124, here 119;Google Scholar
  5. John Wolffe, Great Deaths: Grieving, Religion, and Nationhood in Victorian and Edwardian Britain (Oxford University Press, 2000), 28–55. While James Curl and others have focused on the extravagance of working-class funerals, Julie-Marie Strange argues that such accounts have been ‘mythologized’ and that ‘the definition of working-class death custom in terms of social status alone is unhelpful’;Google Scholar
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    Lutz, ‘Dead Still Among Us’, 132. On the unusual nature of Queen Victoria’s mourning, see Pat Jalland, Death in the Victorian Family (Oxford University Press, 1996), 318–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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  12. 8.
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    José Harris, Private Lives, Public Spirit: A Social History of Britain, 1870–1914 (Oxford University Press, 1993), 54, quoted in Jalland, Death in the Victorian Family, 124.Google Scholar
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    For an example of children’s post-mortem photographs used for the antivaccinationist cause, see William J. Furnival, Alleged Vaccinal Injuries: Illustrated (Stone: William J. Furnival, 1907).Google Scholar
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    Susan J. Matt and Peter N. Stearns, introduction to Doing Emotions History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014), 1–13, here 5. In making this general point, Matt and Stearns are referring specifically to the work of Nicole Eustace and William Reddy.Google Scholar
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    For a discussion of the emotional cultures of working-class history in the context of nineteenth-century America, see Thomas C. Buchanan, ‘Class Sentiments: Putting the Emotion Back in Working-Class History’, Journal of Social History 48 (1) (2014), 72–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Nadja Durbach, Bodily Matters: The Anti-Vaccination Movement in England, 1853–1907 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005).Google Scholar
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    Mary Hume-Rothery, Women and Doctors: Or, Medical Despotism in England (Manchester: Abel Heywood & Son, 1871), 16.Google Scholar
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    Mary Hume-Rothery (ed.), 150 Reasons for Disobeying the Vaccination Law, by Persons Prosecuted under it (Cheltenham: George F. Poole, 1878), 3.Google Scholar
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    Lydia Murdoch, ‘Carrying the Pox: The Use of Children and Ideals of Childhood in Early British and Imperial Campaigns against Smallpox’, Journal of Social History 48 (3) (2015), 511–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Sandra Stanley Holton, ‘Silk Dresses and Lavender Kid Gloves: The Wayward Career of Jessie Craigen, Working Suffragist’, Women’s History Review 5 (1) (1996), 129–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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Copyright information

© Lydia Murdoch 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lydia Murdoch

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