67-20-80 | Pichet à lait
222 x 20 cm
Gift of Léandre Savoie
This artefact belongs to : © Musée acadien of the Université de Moncton
Keys to History
The Drop of Milk movement, which grew up in Canadian cities from 1910 onwards, was inspired by the experience of its American and French sister societies. Led by the women of the Fédération nationale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, the Drop of Milk crusade aimed at eliminating contaminated milk, a major cause of infant mortality, from the market. With this end in view, the members organized depots where families could obtain pasteurised milk. They also offered advice and support to mothers. By 1913 twenty-six of these centres were in operation. In less than a year the mortality rate of infants whose mothers used the Drop of Milk depots dropped from 19 per cent to 5 per cent, proof that simple sanitary precautions could radically improve the chances of survival of the poorest segment of Montreal's population.
Cows' milk was an important part of an infant's diet. It was necessary because many women were unable to nurse or gave little milk as the result of malnutrition or overwork.
In Canadian cities the quality of the milk left much to be desired. It was in fact a major cause of mortality.
The reports of the Health Board of Montreal, established in 1877, deplore the adulteration of milk with chalk, starch and even sheep's' brains. These contaminants often caused fatal gastro-enteritis in children.
In 1919 the Drop of Milk depots could only serve a minority of the population of Montreal.