M930.50.2.263 | Family life

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Family life
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
1850-1885, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
11.7 x 9.8 cm
Gift of David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Genre (188) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

Starting in the 1860s, a reform movement arose in all large North American cities. Citizens came together to demand measures aimed at sanitizing several popular neighbourhoods. In Canada, Montreal and Toronto were influenced by this movement. Doctors, engineers and especially hygienists played an active role in these groups. For example, the Montreal Sanitary Association succeeded in convincing the municipal elected representatives to increase public awareness of the benefits of hygiene, the importance of vaccination and the necessity of connecting each house to the sewer network. Health measures were a regular topic of discussion in newspapers. The municipal health officers inspected homes. In hospitals, the nurses, as well as looking after patients, played an important role in providing education about hygiene and sanitization. Their work was often done behind the scenes, but was still very effective.

Source : Big Cities, New Horizons [Web tour], by Robert Gagnon, Université du Québec à Montréal (see Links)

  • What

    Ink on paper by John Henry Walker. This drawing illustrates two opposing views of family life. One shows the benefits of hygiene; the other depicts a home undermined by the absence of elementary rules of hygiene.

  • Where

    Especially in urban areas, the effects of an unhealthy environment could lead to illness and misery in people's homes.

  • When

    This drawing may have been used in the second half of the 19th century to inform the parents of large families about the benefits of hygiene.

  • Who

    On one hand, we see a happy mother with her healthy children, and on the other, a depressed mother surrounded by her sick children.