History ETDs

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The trials and sufferings of American pioneers have been a favorite subject for writers of frontier history and frontier novels. Stories of extreme hardships caused by Indian raids, drouths, floods, blizzards, swollen streams, and grasshopper and locust infestations have made most Americans aware that their forefathers had hard lives on the frontier. But a fallacy has distorted the picture: Many people believe that pioneers were sturdy and strong and in such good health that they were able to overcome obstacles with relative ease. Such was not the case. Those who first inhabited the unsettled regions of the country did not, as a rule, enjoy good health. Pioneers of the Great Plains not only had to survive economically by besting the environment, but also had to struggle for their physical existence against a multitude of illnesses, most of which were incurable at that time. The object of this thesis is to demonstrate that health was one of the most important factors in the establishment of civilization. To accomplish this object, the writer has focused upon a typical frontier area, Ottawa County, in north-central Kansas. Throughout the nineteenth century it remained an area of farms and small towns, without the benefit of a hospital, clinic, or highly technical equipment. Therefore, the writer believes that the region, medically speaking at least, was a frontier until the advent of better transportation in the twentieth century gave the sick of Ottawa County better access to medical facilities in large centers of population. To put the history of Ottawa County health and medicine in its proper perspective, the first chapter shall consist of a brief survey of the health of the state of Kansas in its early years.

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Degree Name


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First Committee Member (Chair)

Donald Colgett Cutter

Second Committee Member

Ferenc Morton Szasz

Third Committee Member

William Miner Dabney



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