Sun 21 Feb 99 8:32
Don Martin

Various halfwits here keep insisting that all of our troubles would evaporate if only we became a Christian country. Reading Doris Drucker's memoir of her childhood in Prussia during WWI in the Atlantic ("Invent Radium or I'll Pull your Hair", The Atlantic Monthly, August 1998, pp 73-91), I came across an interesting tradition on p. 77 as practiced in that very Christian country (about 90% Lutheran, if memory serves) in the last century), regarding the wet nurse:

When her first child was born, my grandmother employed a wet nurse--that was Old Anna, who stayed on to look after the next children and who was later replaced by a part-time governess who supervised the children's homework.

A wet nurse was usually a village girl who had gotten herself "into trouble". As soon as the baby was born, it was given away to an "angel maker" (a woman who starved to death the babies in her care), and the young mother was hired out as a wet nurse. Her employers plied her with beer and ale and lots of rich food, to make the baby fatter and fatter--in those days a sign of enviable health. Well-to-do mothers preferred to have their babies nourished by a wet nurse: it was much more convenient than having to be on tap around the clock. Besides, breast feeding was considered degrading, as if one were a sort of milch cow. For mothers who could not nurse their babies a surrogate was a necessity, because there was no such thing as formula to feed newborns.

Two thing catch my attention here: the calm acceptance of the deliberate killing off of excess peasant babies (along with, apparently, a routine method and recognized persons for doing the killing, and the social gulf between the bourgeousie and the peasants: if breast feeding was to be "a sort of milch cow", and if peasant girls were routinely hired and well fed to serve as such cows, the view that the peasants are not quite human is implicit: they are simply a type of farm animals clever enough to run the other animals there.

Drucker goes on to talk about the servants on pp. 77-8:

For all their labors the servants earned a pittance, but at least they were fed when the alternative was to starve at home in a village. The young women worked hard, but life in the city was less cruel than in the villages. In the city, the fuel, coal or wood, had to be carried upstairs from the cellar to stoke the kitchen stove and the tile ovens in every room (there was no central heating), and every day the ashes had to be carried downstairs. But at least all the hauling was done inside, protected from the weather. In the village, water was fetched from a spring or a fountain, sometimes a long distance away. In the city it came from an indoor tap.

Probably these conditions were those that prevailed for millenia. So long as the countryside is populated with excess persons eager to work hard at any price, the well-to-do _have_ no servant problem. I have oft observed here and elsewhere that the greatest, perhaps only, impact of anti-abortion legislation is upon poor women: women with the means can always get what they want, even if they must travel to get it. Nothing has changed: a village girl "in trouble" capable of getting an abortion is a village girl who won't be made into a "sort of milch cow" in the service of her betters, however more pleasant being a milch cow in the city may be, compared to being a pack ass in the country. Girls who avoided getting in trouble typically ended up as peasant's wives, popping out the annual contribution to the work force in between days spent in drudgery (a _good_ woman gave birth at night, quietly).

It is not surprising that Christians, with their testosterone-inflamed god, should oppose abortion as a grave threat to the way things are spozed to be, forever and ever, amen.

... Through a Jaundiced Eye Darkly -- Rheum With a View
(don@vard.org, www.vard.org)


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