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NORTHEAST ANTHROPOLOGY
Abstracts: Issue 61

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Number 61 Spring 2001

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The editorial comment for issue number 61 can be found at the end of this page.

ARTICLES

Pages

1–9 Poverty in the Nineteenth Century: Documentary and Cemetery Studies from New York State

Rosanne L. Higgins

A symposium was held at the 2000 conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists on skeletal and archival studies of poverty in the nineteenth century. These studies (all but one from New York state) have contributed important information on the implications of poverty on health historically. Studies of almshouses from five counties in New York have increased our understanding of the impact of poverty on infants and children, women, the elderly and the mentally ill. These studies have contributed data on the health of almshouse inmates, the spread of infectious diseases, and the changing demographic patterns over time. In general, this body of work supports the claims made by economic historians that almshouses were not successful in serving the needs of the poor. This work goes further, suggesting that these institutions left those who sought relief there more vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases and death.

Une session a eu lieu en la conférence de 2000 de l’Association Américaine des Anthropologues Physiques sur les études squelettiques et archivales de la pauvreté du dix-neuvième siècle. Ces études (toutes tratant l’état de New York sauf une) ont contribué information importante sur l’impact historique de la pauvreté sur la santé. Plus precisement, ces travaux des hospices de cinq comtés de l’état de New York ont augmenté notre compréhension de l’impact de pauvreté sur les enfants, les femmes, les plus âgés et les malades mentaux. Surtout, ces études ont contribué des données sur la santé de détenus des hospices, la diffusion des maladies contagieuses, et changements aux perspectives démographiques au fil du temps. En général, ce corps de travail soutien les conclusions des historiens économiques qui proposent que les hospices ne respondaient guère aux besoins des pauvres. Il suggère d’ailleurs que ces institutions laissient leurs clients plus susceptibles aux maladies infectueuses et à la mort.

11-25 The Biology of Poverty: Evidence from the Erie County Poorhouse, Buffalo, New York: 1856-1910

Rosanne L. Higgins

During the early nineteenth century many American cities established almshouses in an effort to provide relief to the growing number of people living in poverty. These institutions were designed to be self-sustaining work farms where inmates worked for their keep. Mortality is used here as an indicator of whether or not the Erie County Almshouse, in Buffalo, New York, was able to adequately buffer the serious consequences of poverty for its inmates, namely disease and death. Using Omran’s (1971, 1975, 1977) model of epidemiological transition, a combination of inmate records and state and federal census data were used to compare patterns of disease-specific mortality between the poor of Erie County and the general population. Infectious disease mortality remained high and fluctuating in the almshouse sample, while declining through time in the general population. Mortality from the diseases of modern society increased through time in both samples. These data suggest that the almshouse sample was lagging behind the general population in the epidemiological transition. It would also seem evident that the Erie County Almshouse was largely unsuccessful at protecting its inmates from the most severe consequences of poverty.

Pendant la première moitié de la dix-neuvième siècle, beaucoup de villes américaines ont établi des hospices pour réduire la croissance dans le nombre de gens vivant dans la pauvreté. Cettes institutions ont été conçues comme independentes ‘fermes de travail’ où les participants réussaient su entretien en travailant. Le taux de mortalité est utilisé ici comme un indicateur de la efficacité du hospice du Comté de Erie, à Buffalo, New York, por atténuer les conséquences sérieux de la pauvreté pour ses habitants, comme la maladie et la mort. Il s’utilise le modèle de ‘la transition epidemologique’ de Omran (1971, 1975, 1977) qui combine les dosiers des pensionnaires et les resulats des recensements fédéraux et de I’ étatpour comparer la mortalité des maladies spécifiques des pauvres de la comté de Erie et de la population en générale. La mortalité des maladies contagieuses de I’ échantillon du hospice s’est montrée plus haute et plus variable, alors qu’ elle déclinait dans la population générale. La mortalité de maladies
associées à la société moderne a augmenté dans les deux échantillons. Ces données suggèrent que I’ échantillon du hospice restait en arrière de la population générale par rapport à la transition epidemiologique. Il semblerait évident que le Hospice du Comté de Erie ne servait pas à protège ses habitants des conséquences les plus sévères de la pauvreté.

27-47 County Institutions as Crucibles of Social Judgment: Bioarchaeological Evidence of the Consequences
of Disease and Social Stigma

Shawn M. Phillips

This study examines the bioarchaeological record for evidence of stigma associated with disease in two New York County institutions. The biocultural perspective is taken in this holistic analysis of mortuary practices, archaeological data, paleopathology, and social history. Evidence presented here confirms reports by medical historians that social stigma attributed to certain diseases tended to redirect the lives of the afflicted as they lost their individual identity and gained the social identity tied to the social perception of their disease. Three forms of stigma are reported here: 1) Venereal disease and mortuary practice; 2) Differential risk of trauma in asylums; and 3) Disfigurement and the limits of medical care in an asylum for the mentally ill.

Cette étude examine evidence bioarchaeologique pour élucider les stigmates associés à plusieures maladies dans deux institutions du Comté de New York. Ici il s’emploie une perspective holistique biocultural qui incorpore les pratiques mortuaires, les données archéologiques, la paleopathologie, et l’histoire social. L’evidence presentée est en d’accord avec les historiens médicaux qui ont sugeré que le stigmate social attribué aux certaines maladies a eu la tendance de influencer les vies des affligés qui ainsi perdaient leurs identités comme individus, et gagnaient une identité sociale liée à la perception général de leur maladie. Ce travail se porte sur trois thèmes associés aux stigmates des maladies: 1) des maladies venereales et les practiques mortuaires; 2) les hasards différentiels aux traumes en les hospices; et 3) le désfigurement et les limites des soins medicaux dans un hospice pour les individus souffrant des troubles mentaux.

49-62 Disturbing Cemeteries: Invisibility, History and Demographics of the Broome County, New York, Poorhouse

Peter E. Killoran, Frank C. Tarricone, Tyler G. O’Brien

The Broome County Poorhouse operated between 1831 and 1931. A total of 1,985 people died there and were buried on the grounds of the facility. The site has been damaged by development; only six of these individuals were recovered by archaeological methods, so data from skeletal remains for this population is essentially nonexistent. Fortunately, Records of the Superintendents of the Poorhouse provide substantial insight into the demography of Victorian Binghamton and development of the city during the Industrial Revolution. These Records of the Superintendents provide information on the number of deaths, people received into the house, length of stay, as well as rates of absconding and discharges. Poorhouse conditions varied over time and often differed from the stated intents of the Superintendents. This paper examines those discrepancies and suggests some possible explanations. Lastly, we address some of the difficulties in studies dealing with the history of the poor. A plan for future poorhouse research is offered.

L’hospice du Comté de Broome était ouvert entre 1831 et 1931. Un total de 1,985 individus y sont morts et ensuite enterrés sur le terrain du hospice. Aujourd’hui, le site a été affecté par le développement et seulement six de ces individus ont pu être retrouvés par les méthodes archéologiques. Comme résultat, les données squelettiques provenant de cette population sont extrêmement pauvres. Heureusement, les registres des directeurs du hospice nous donnent une bonne image de la démographie de la ville de Binghamton pendant l’epoque victorienne et le développement de la même pendant l’évolution industrielle. Ces registres des directeurs du hospice aussi fournissent information sur le numéro des morts et habitants du hospice, la duration des periodes d’internement, et la fréquence d’echappage et de déchargement des residents. Les conditions au hospice variaient au cours du temps et souvent au contraire des intentions déclarées des directeurs. Ce travail examine ces désaccords et suggère quelques interpretations possibles. Dernièrement, nous adressons à la difficulté d’étudier l’histoire de la pauvreté et des pauvres. Un projet de recherche au futur sur l’hospice de Binghamton est aussi offert.

BOOK REVIEWS

63-63 Women of the Dawn
(Bunny Mc Bride)

Jean S. Forward

63-64 Lines that Divide: Historical Archaeologies of Race, Class, and Gender
(James A. Delle, Stephen A. Mrozowski, and Robert Paynter)

Diana DiPaolo Loren

65-66 Harvest of Souls: The Jesuit Missions and Colonialism in North America, 1632-1650
(Carole Blackburn)

Karen K. Seat

EDITORIAL COMMENT

In this volume we are pleased to present a thematic issue on the bioarchaeology of poverty and poorhouses in New York State, with Rosanne Higgins of Cleveland State University serving as a guest editor. We would like to continue the practice of theme volumes on a periodic basis, and have been asked by a number of individuals about what might be involved in pulling one together. Following is the simple recipe:

•One or two individuals who are willing to serve as guest editors solicit contributors for the planned
volume. I suggest five papers total. That is about the maximum the journal can comfortably
accommodate (six if there aren’t too many figures and tables); plus if an individual has to drop out
that still leaves us with a sufficient number to comprise a volume.
•The guest editor should provide a list of potential referees. For consistency, we have decided to use
two to three reviewers for an entire thematic volume, rather than different ones for each paper.
• We will handle all of the usual details of technical editing and moving the volume through
publication. However, the editor must be willing to play a role in keeping their contributors to a
deadline, as well as assisting in any substantive questions we might have about the papers.
We plan for our next issue to include a CD of a National Register form for a site in New York. In addition to documenting in considerable detail an important occupation in the Hudson Valley, it provides readers the opportunity to see how a successful National Register form should be prepared. This also serves as a test run to evaluate whether we can continue the practice in the future, as potential authors have asked about the possibility of including data on CD which will not fit within typical confines of volume space. We continue to be open to any suggestions for new and innovative approaches for Northeast Anthropology.
Charles Cobb

P.S. Please note our new e-mail address: nrthanth@binghamton.edu


 

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