Health Culture in the Heartland, 1880-1980

An Oral History
Author: Lucinda McCray Beier
A century of developing health culture in McLean County, Illinois
Cloth – $110
Paper – $28
Publication Date: October 2008
Buy the Book Request Desk/Examination Copy Request Review Copy Request Rights or Permissions Request Alternate Format Preview

About the Book

This history of health, illness, and medical care in one downstate Illinois county offers a richly detailed account, spanning more than a century of health care, from the perspectives of county residents, nurses, doctors, and public health professionals. Drawing on a wealth of oral history interviews, hospital records, and other primary documents, Lucinda McCray Beier provides insight into home management of ill-health, birth, and death; nurses’ training and practices; the experiences of African American healers and patients; public health provision; and other topics. By observing the history of medicine and public health through the eyes of practitioners and laypeople over an extended period in a Midwestern county, this volume offers insight into broad American experience as well as an important counterweight to metropolitan-oriented, physician-centered studies.

About the Author

Lucinda McCray Beier is a professor of history at Illinois State University. She is the author of Sufferers and Healers: The Experience of Illness in Seventeenth-Century England and For Their Own Good: The Transformation of English Working-Class Health Culture, 1880-1970.


“This is a must book for those with interests in family, cultural, social, gender, ethnic, and medical history. . . . Highly recommended.”--Choice

“Beier has contributed substantially to a new understanding of biomedicine in the twentieth century Midwest and in the United States.”--Journal of Illinois History

“Well-written and smoothly flowing. . . . Anyone interested in how changes in life, death, and expectations about health care evolve over a century would be remiss if they did not read, and enjoy, this book.”--Annals of Iowa

"A superb model of analytical local history and of social history."--American Historical Review

"An interesting portrait of the shift from rural and traditional nineteenth-century medical care to modernized, scientific, professional medical care and public health rules and regulations as seen from the perspectives of doctors, nurses, patients, and other community members."The Journal of American History


“An informative, original, and important book. Beier’s well-written and thoroughly researched work seeks to reconcile a broader historiography with the experiences of the people who lived through a period of profound change in McLean County, Illinois.”--Timothy A. Hickman, author of The Secret Leprosy of Modern Days: Narcotic Addiction and Cultural Crisis in the United States, 1870-1920

“Lucinda Beier’s command and deep use of local sources puts a very human face on medicine as it was experienced. Her ability to probe the memory of informants and her understanding of national medical trends help us understand how people of the past suffered, healed, or died. This on-the-ground history serves as a fine example of the value of such local sources to cultural historians.”--Greg Koos, executive director, McLean County Museum of History


Received a Superior Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society, 2009