Spirit of 1848


an officially recognized caucus within the American Public Health Association


Women’s Caucus, Est. 1970
Jill Oliveri, MPH, DrPH

Clinical Research Manager
Comprehensive Cancer Center
The Ohio State University
1590 N. High Street, Suite 525
Columbus, Ohio 43201
Office: (614) 293-8174 (P)
Fax: (614) 293-5611 (F)
Immediate Past Chair
Heather M. Brandt, PhD, CHES

University of South Carolina
800 Sumpter St HESC
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
803-777-6290 (F)
803-777-7096 (P)

“Spirit of 1848” MISSION STATEMENT:

The Spirit of 1848 spiritof1848.org is a network of people concerned about social inequalities in health. Our purpose is to spur new connections among the many of us involved in different areas of public health, who are working on diverse public health issues (whether as researchers, practitioners, teachers, activists, or all of the above), and live scattered across diverse regions of the United States and other countries. In doing so, we hope to help counter the fragmentation that many of us face: within and between disciplines, within and between work on particular diseases or health problems, and within and between different organizations geared to specific issues or social groups. By making connections, we can overcome some of the isolation that we feel and find others with whom we can develop our thoughts, strategize, and enhance efforts to eliminate social inequalities in health.

Our common focus is that we are all working, in one way or another, to understand and change how social divisions based on social class, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, and age affect the public’s health. As an activist and scholarly network, we have established four committees to conduct our work:.
Public Health Data: This committee will focus on how and why we measure and study social inequalities in health, and develop projects to influence the collection of data in US vital statistics, health surveys, and disease registries.

Curriculum: This committee will focus on how public health and other health professionals and students are trained, and will gather and share information about (and possibly develop) courses and materials to spur critical thinking about social inequalities in health, in their present and historical context.

E-Networking: This committee will focus on networking and communication within the Spirit of 1848, using e-mail, web page, newsletters, and occasional mailings

History: This committee is an affiliate of the Sigerist Circle, an already established organization of public health and medical historians who use critical theory (Marxian, feminist, post-colonial, and otherwise) to illuminate the history of public health and how we have arrived where we are today; its presence in the Spirit of 1848 will help to ensure that our network’s projects are grounded in this sense of history, complexity, and context.

Work among these committees will be coordinated by our Coordinating Committee, which consists of two co-chairs and the chairs/co-chairs of each of the four sub-committees. To ensure accountability, all public activities sponsored by the Spirit of 1848 (e.g., public statements, mailings, sessions at conferences, other public actions) will be organized by these committees and approved by the Coordinating Committee (which will communicate on at least a monthly basis). Annual meetings of the network (so that we can actually see each other and talk together) will take place at the yearly American Public Health Association meetings. Finally, please note that we are NOT a dues-paying membership organization. Instead, we are an activist, volunteer network: you become part of the Spirit of 1848 by working on one of our projects, through one of our committees — and we invite you to join in!


Selected notable events in and around 1848

Louis Rene Villerme publishes the first major study of workers’ health in France, A Description of the Physical and Moral State of Workers Employed in Cotton, Linen, and Silk Mills (1840); in England, Edwin Chadwick publishes General Report on Sanitary Conditions of the Laboring Population in Great Britain (1842); first child labor laws in the Britain and the United States (1842); end of the Second Seminole War (1842); prison reform movement in the United States initiated by Dorothea Dix (1843); Frederick Engels publishes The Condition of the Working Class in England (1844); John Griscom publishes The Sanitary Condition of the Laboring Population of New York with Suggestions for Its Improvement (1845); Irish famine (1845-1848) despite high agricultural output and protests against British agricultural and trade policies; start of US-Mexican war (1846); Frederick Douglass founds The North Star, an anti-slavery newspaper (1847); Southwood Smith publishes An Address to the Working Classes of the United Kingdom on their Duty in the Present State of the Sanitary Question (1847)

World-wide cholera epidemic

Uprisings in Berlin, Paris, Vienna, Palermo, Milan, Naples, Parma, Rome, Warsaw, Prague, and Budapest; start of Second Sikh war against British in India
In the midst of the 1848 revolution in Germany, Rudolf Virchow founds the medical journal Medical Reform (Medicinische Reform), and writes his classic “Report on the Typhus Epidemic in Upper Silesia,” in which he concludes that preserving health and preventing disease requires “full and unlimited democracy” and radical measures rather than “mere palliatives” Revolution in France, abdication of Louis Philippe, worker uprising in Paris, and founding of The Second Republic, which creates a public health advisory committee attached to the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce and establishes network of local public health councils
First Public Health Act in Britain, which creates a General Board of Health, empowered to establish local boards of health to deal with the water supply, sewerage, and control of “offensive trades,” and also to conduct surveys of sanitary conditions
The newly formed American Medical Association sets up a Public Hygiene Committee to address public health issues
First Women’s Rights Convention in the United States, at Seneca Falls
Henry Thoreau publishes Civil Disobedience, to protest paying taxes to support the United State’s war against Mexico
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels publish The Communist Manifesto

Elizabeth Blackwell sets up the New York Dispensary for Poor Women and Children (1849); Lemuel Shattuck publishes Report of the Sanitary Commission of Massachusetts (1850); founding of the London Epidemiological Society (1850); Indian Wars in the southwest and far west (1849-1892); Compromise of 1850 retains slavery in the United States and Fugitive Slave Act passed; Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852); Sojourner Truth delivers her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech at the Fourth Seneca Fall convention (1853); John Snow removes the handle of the Broad Street Pump to stop the cholera epidemic in London (1854)

Also see the following articles:
Coordinating Committee of Spirit of 1848 (Krieger N, Zapata C, Murrain M, Barnett E, Parsons PE, Birn AE). Spirit of 1848: a network linking politics, passion, and public health. Critical Public Health 1998; 8:97-103.
Krieger N, Birn AE. A vision of social justice as the foundation of public health: commemorating 150 years of the spirit of 1848. Am J Public Health 1998; 88:1603-1606.

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