On Death

Pardon me while I get maudlin…

Yesterday, I read this in the 1930 diary I have: Had 16 little piglets today, but the old mother laid on 4 and killed them.

This made me sad. Especially if you’ve seen the cute piglet pictures I posted here. But it also got me thinking about how common death is, especially on a farm. And especially in the 1930s.

Well, it’s not a giant leap from cute piggies dying to human mortality… Again, especially in the 1930s. So I started digging.

For instance, did you know that in c1930…

  • Most children died between the ages of 1 and 5, and usually in the first quarter of the year (January-March). [1]
  • 59% of the children between the ages of 1 and 5 who passed away died from Diptheria. [1]
  • On average, there was one physician for every 1400 persons. [2]
  • The leading cause of death in adults was heart-related, followed closely by influenza and pneumonia. [1]
  • Penicillin was not discovered until 1928 and was not used to treat infections until 1942. As a result, many deaths were caused by complications due to infection. [4]
  • Stillbirths were 24% more likely for women between the ages of 20 and 24. [3]
  • The leading accident-related cause of death on farms was due to agricultural machinery, most often in the months of May-July. [1]
  • Nearly 1% of women who gave birth died within six months from puerperal (postpartum) infection. [1]

What this all means is that I’m pretty lucky my relatives made it through the 30s.

What it means to a writer is that there are lots of Very Mean Things I can do to poor Rose and Harold. Because that’s what writers do…


[1] 1931 Mortality Statistics

[2] Public Health 1929-1941

[3] 1931 Birth, Stillbirth, and Infant Mortality Statistics

[4] Penicillin – Wikipedia

2 thoughts on “On Death

  1. Zan Marie says:

    Be mean, be very mean. Such is the story stuff we need. I’m in the process of discovering just exactly how bad my wounded warrior’s TBI will be. Yep, I’m mean, too.


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