Sir James Whitney Disagrees with the Anti-Vaccination League

March 16, 2013 at 10:47 pm Leave a comment

On Dec, 1, 1900, several medical doctors, mainly from Toronto, sent a letter to Sir James Whitney, the 6th Premier of Ontario and conservative MLA representing Dundas at the time, in which they laid out several arguments against compulsory smallpox vaccination laws aimed at preventing unvaccinated students from attending school (see photo below for full text of letter). The letter is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it is signed by members of the medical profession, which suggests, contrary to claims that anti-vaccinationism was a fringe movement among illiterate and misguided zealots, that there were anti-vaccinationists within the ranks of the profession at that time. Second, while it is not clear from the letter whether the doctors were acting as a formal group or association, signatories to the letter include three non-doctors identified as “Officers of League.” This suggests that the doctors were members of or that the letter came from the Anti-Vaccination League of Canada. Lastly (this is perhaps the most interesting point), the letter shows Sir Whitney’s apparent disagreement with the contents and arguments, in the form of pen-marked annotations correcting what he felt were false statements in the letter.

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Source: Library and Archives Canada

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , .

Nineteenth Century Physicians, the Rhetoric of “Science” and the Professionalization of Medicine

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Reflections on health law and policy in early Canadian history

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