Our Town

Medicine in the Early 1900's: Essential Context for Emily's Death 10th Grade

Humanity has been fortunate enough to make advancements in medicine as time goes on. Medicine, and the lack of it, plays an important role in Our Town. Emily’s death is a key part of the conflict in the play. The third act’s name isn’t given, but the reader can draw the conclusion that its subject is death. If better medicine and medical practices were present for the setting of the play, it could have ended a lot differently than it did.

Our Town took place from 1901 until 1913. Practices were very different from today’s. Many wives gave birth in their own home. It wasn’t common for people to deliver babies at hospitals or other health-related facilities. From 1912 to 1915, only half of women who gave birth were being attended by physicians. Hospitals had a taboo around them at the time. Antiseptic policies were not as strict during this time, and doctors could pose a risk of infecting a woman or her child if they had been spending the day going from patient to patient. People argued that in a home, there was only one patient, while in a hospital, there were many. Most women felt more at ease being with family and familiar surroundings.

Emily’s process of preparing for giving birth might’ve been very similar to a typical early...

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