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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Family limitation in Lancashire : an environmental problem, 1832-1911 Reimer, Hilrie


In nineteenth-century Lancashire, reproductive complications as a result of cotton dust exposure were either ignored or misunderstood largely because moral and economic concerns tended to overshadow the health issues involved. Debate in the first half of the century over who should be responsible for the industrial poor and the subsequent controversy over the diminishing birth rate, particularly among textile workers, helped bring health issues into focus by the turn of the century. A comparison of dusty mills with ideally ventilated mills indicates that contemporary observers were of the impression that families involved in the latter were larger and healthier than those that were employed in the former. The testimony of working women also attributes reproductive problems to poor health caused by their work. Ailments associated with cotton dust exposure had been recognized early in the course of the debates but the concept of a disease specific to cotton dust inhalation and related reproductive impairment was not defined until well into the twentieth century.

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