Dreadfully Dirty

Suellen Hoy

in Chasing Dirt

Published in print January 1997 | ISBN: 9780195111286
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854011 | DOI:
Dreadfully Dirty

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This chapter discusses ancient America wherein sanitation was known but not observed nor practiced throughout the nation. It chronicles that in the 1800s, cleanliness in the Unites States was at the same level as that of the Third World countries where peasant villages were dominated by primitively unhygienic inhabitants. The chapter describes the indifference of the early Americans, particularly those living in the rural areas, to cleanliness and sanitation. As chronicled by several European travelers, Midwesterners were filthy and bordering on beastly. It also tackles the efforts of the three prime catalysts of cleanliness. Staunch advocates of cleanliness and health, Beecher, Graham, and Alcott cemented the role of women in keeping their households clean, affirming that cleanliness would keep out dreaded diseases and insisting that cleanliness overhauls personal image and status quo. Discussions soon revolved around creating cleanliness as a public policy and reform resulted at the onset of Civil War, which has a lasting effect during the insurgency.

Keywords: sanitation; Beecher; Graham; Alcott; Civil War; cleanliness; Midwesterners; health

Chapter.  11645 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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