1840 Health Vaccination Reform

Victorian Era Diseases, Illnesses

During the Victorian Era, a myriad of lethal diseases was consuming the population and slashing through the lives of those young and old. A few of the common diseases that were responsible for the majority of death (at the time) included Typhoid, Cholera, Smallpox, Scarlet Fever, and measles (McAlpine). In Villette, we get to see how some of these diseases have affected and pivoted the protagonist, Lucy Snowe's life. The root of these diseases is unsanitary conditions, food, and constant close human contact. In this era, people weren't aware of how important it was to keep their bodies, kitchens, and other aspects of basic living clean. So, as the birth rates climbed so did their mortality rates.  Due to the large, lower-class population dying off because of the lack of funds for healthcare and sanitation, Parliament passed the Vaccination Laws of 1840 to provide common folk with vaccinations at the expense of ratepayers. Cultural and Christian values kept ratepayers from paying and investing in the spread of the vaccinations even though infant vaccinations were required by law years later (McIntosh). Some believed that the vaccinations were un-safe, they were not necessary or felt that the government had no right to force an un-known medical treatment upon them. 

Bless dear Madame Beck's soul, her patience and will to hold the power is trifling to watch. She holds the girls under constant surveillance. Alas, she feels that her authority over them hangs in the balance by a delicate string of cotton. Desiree, that girl is a wild thing. She runs around the facility like a little mouse scurrying and sticking her nose where she can sport it best. Meanwhile, Fifine is a white dove, sweet and poised. Oh, please don't let my mind trot to Dr. John, methinks he could care less if I trampled over tired toes into a brook. Poor Lucy, she is charmed by an eerie power, during the storm she breached the window while I and the others prayed for an end to this atrocity known as day. My woes cry out to her the most. She is yet a shell of a woman now bewitched by the papers God has provided. She beds herself in her lessons to dull out how she fancies life now. With time she will grow and maybe one day escape the demons that furrow her consciousness. May God continue to hold his children in his unchanging hand. I pray for their abundant safety and rehabilitation on the morrow.  

Brontë, Charlotte. "Villette." COVE Studio, 2020, https://studio.covecollective.org/documents/villette-2 

McAlpine, Fraser. "Five Horrible Diseases You Might Have Caught in Victorian England." BBC

America, Anglophenia, April 2013. https://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2013/04/five-horrible-


McIntosh, Neil. "Victorian Britain" BBC History,  BBC Archives, 6 Nov.

2014, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/timeline/victorianbritain_timeline_...

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