Maternity and Child Welfare Reform in North India, 1900-1947

Bracken, Hillary Jean, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Nair, Neeti, Department of History, University of Virginia
Barnett, Richard, Department of History, University of Virginia

During the first half of the twentieth century, north India served as an important site in a growing global debate about government efforts to reduce infant mortality. This is a political and social history of these discussions, from the first decades of the twentieth century to the eve of Indian independence in 1947. This dissertation charts how political and professional interest came to shape the design and mechanisms of maternity and child welfare policy and programs in one province in north India, the United Provinces. The dissertation describes the creation, organization and work of the secular bureaucratic institutions responsible for financing maternity and child welfare activities in north India -- the Lady Chelmsford League, the Lady Reading Fund, the Indian Red Cross Society, plus their successor the Maternity and Child Welfare Bureau. Rising nationalist opposition and changing political institutions pushed colonial officials in India to explore new strategies to placate critics in India and abroad. The rhetoric and ritual of maternity and child health activities served as means to consolidate colonial and local political approval. Yet the work of saving Indian babies also facilitated the involvement of international health organizations keen on improving life in Indian villages, and public health training and medical practice within and outside the country. In addition, maternal and child health propaganda and programs also provided ground for local officials, Indian journalists, and medical professionals to establish and challenge political and professional legitimacy. Drawing on material from archives and libraries in India, Britain, and the United States, this dissertation examines these interrelated developments and their implications for public health and medicine in India.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

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