St Louis, Disease discussed on Here & Now

Automatic TRANSCRIPT

Disease control and other health organizations have long championed the virtues of breast feeding but back in nineteen forty six an effort began by the St Louis based company pet milk to market formula to a growing black American market and they did this and what is being called a brazen act of exploitation using for identical baby girls known as the full squads to market their products and while pet milk made millions the girls ended up in poverty for university of Hawaii associate professor Andrea Freeman the full squad story is part of a larger history of black women discouraged from breast feeding she intertwines these stories in her new book skimmed breast feeding race an injustice and she joins me now to talk about it welcome thank you well Andrea you begin this book with the birth of the quads Mary Louise Mary Ann Mary Alice and Mary Catherine quads were rear back then natural quads are still very rare today so of course they immediately became famous and their exploitation began at birth with their doctor Fred cleaner tell us more about some of the ways he did that Fred clatter was kind of an unusual doctor he had a theory about the healing powers of vitamin C. so right on the day of their birth he injected them with vitamin C. and he did that every day for years afterwards the next thing that he did was take away the privilege of naming them yes I mention their names and their names are actually because of him yeah he decided that he was going to name them and he gave them all the first name merry and then the names of his wife daughter aunt and mother he then decided to auction off the rights to a formula company to use for their promotional materials and let's talk about that he began bidding for for the rights to be the baby's corporate sponsor pet milk was the winner what did they agree to provide for the babies and their parents the primary thing they agreed to was milk self milk was their major source of nutrition and diet they said that they would give them a nurse which was a nurse chosen by Dr Kleiner so that he could retain control over the quads and to keep using them for his experiments they bought a house for the family which in those days of course would have been a really big deal but they bought the house from doctor cleaners father in law on land that was very hilly and bear and and impossible to really far so every part of the deal benefited Dr Kleiner and didn't really do too much for the sisters and the family yeah as you write the full squads were born at a time when companies were just starting to market to black Americans talk a little bit about how the girls were used to actually promote pet milk there eight were featured in a lot of magazine advertisements they did performance is so they did music and dancing they went on television they went in her raids stated society events yeah this story the quiet story is important because it brings us to some of the larger issues that you explore in your book as you write black women have the lowest breast feeding rates in the United States and one of the contributing factors is that for decades many black American women were forced because of economic circumstances to work outside of the home in this ties into the quads because if they were really selling to mom's hate here is this way that you can nourish your child and basically the undercurrent was that we know because you won't be breast feeding this is the alternative and that assumption the black women want breast feed is still with us even through changing economic times that means they haven't changed that much we still have a lot of disparity ointments and income and wealth that makes it necessary for many black women to work and then you write in your book about some of the barriers that black women face when they enter medical establishments hospitals learning how to breast feed whether they're given the tools to breast feed what did you learn there there is an assumption by healthcare professionals that black women simply will not rest so many times they're not given the training and the support that white women get when they're in the hospital there immediately given free formula ten encouraged to just bottle filled with formula instead of trying for most people it's difficult to breast feed at first it's not something natural even though I think it's often presented that way it's something that takes work and takes learning how to do it and if those resources are not provided then it simply becomes impossible one of the hardest parts to get through in your book was the chapter on how in slave to black women were forced to wet nurse white babies which of course meant that they had to forgo breast feeding their own and it sort of sounds counter intuitive but not breast feeding you say was seen as a way for black women to reclaim their bodies can you explain more for us on that idea yes the idea that during slavery black women had no choice about nursing white children and breast feeding in general was control the outside of their own bodies sometimes can put people into a position where they feel like to be liberated and to be free and to be self determinative it is a better choice not to breastfeed the full squads I mean they were beautiful babies they went on to work with pet milk throughout their childhood what happened to them they always had a difficult life even when they were born they were celebrities they were isolated because of doctor Klein even from their own siblings so they had six siblings but doctor Klein or did not want them to play with them to spend time with them then when they turn six Dr Kleiner went to a judge and asked the judge to appoint the nurse that he had given them as their guardian the judge said yes and the sisters moved away from their family and from that time on fairly saw that they had a difficult time in school because there were so many demands put on them by tech milk to suddenly make appearances jump out of school jump back in and by the time they got to high school and college they were very behind so they weren't successful they went to college for two years and then they were asked to leave and at that point their guardians move them up to outside New York because it was their dream to perform they had a small night club act but it never took off so they worked in factories and nursing homes and the most tragic part of this is all four were diagnosed with breast cancer when they were in their forties three of them died by the age of fifty five Catherine was the only one who lived into her seventies and she blames the doctor cleaners vitamin treatments for a she and her sisters cancers do you agree with that it's really hard to tell it might also had something to do with this diet of the Formula through there not just insincere but also kind of toddler hood which is very unhealthy so we have the experiments we have this diet heavy in sugar and fat and we have the trauma that they experienced so I really don't know why they all will receive these diagnoses I do know that it's highly unusual for multiples to all get breast cancer but I think we'll never know but the real medical consequences yeah you make this through line from slavery to then the quads and the marketing a formula to black women bringing us to the present day why did you want to write this book I think that a lot of people see breast feeding as a choice and because of the culture that we have around breast feeding now as reflective of good mothering and good parenting people interpret not breast feeding as bad mothering or bad parenting for black women a lot of the time there's no choice involves it's just not a decision because there are so many structural and social factors that make it impossible yet this circumstance is socially interpreted as evidence of being a bad mother and I think it's important for people to understand that this is a structural problem this is not a personal choice issue and your Freeman's book a scam breast feeding race and injustice Andrea thank you for joining us thank you Tonya was great to talk to and to read an excerpt of the book go to here and now dot Iowa farmers have done more than a billion dollars in subsidies to make up for business they've lost in the pre war really though they'd rather just sell the crops once you lose those markets like China you don't get him back very easy yeah so that's a big issue I'm gonna resolve farmers and federal money next on the marketplace join us today for that and the markets on market.

Coming up next