SINAS Event: “A Strange Malady": Jamaica Ginger Paralysis in 1930s America
- Date: –17:00
- Location: Zoom meeting
- Lecturer: Stephen Mawdsley (University of Bristol)
- Organiser: Swedish Institute for North American Studies (SINAS), Department of English
- Contact person: Adam Gilbert
Dr Stephen Mawdsley will give a talk on the history of alcohol, disability, and stigma during America’s Great Depression, drawing on his research project, “The Jake Walk Blues”:
During America’s Great Depression, the patent medicine Jamaica Ginger was adulterated with a toxic substance that could cause death and paralysis. Between 50,000 and 100,000 people became afflicted, leaving survivors with lasting physical disability, limited economic opportunity, and social stigmas. The nature of paralysis often left survivors with a distinctive gait, known colloquially as the “Jake Walk” or “Jake Leg.” After the Jake Walk outbreak, survivors and their families organized action groups, tested remedies, and pushed for legal recourse, while the federal government attempted to bring the perpetrators to justice. Understanding public and institutional reactions to this outbreak and its lasting cultural impact will help to increase our understandings of disability, health, regulation, activism, and stigma.
For more information on this subject, see http://jakewalkblues.com/
The talk will be followed by a Q&A.
Dr Stephen Mawdsley is a Lecturer in Modern American History at the University of Bristol. He is a social historian of twentieth-century American medicine and public health. His first book, Selling Science: Polio and the Promise of Gamma Globulin (Rutgers University Press, 2016), explores America’s first national effort to control polio before the vaccine.
Zoom link: https://uu-se.zoom.us/j/64557234787