Paha bakteeri, hyvä äiti ja normaaliperhe vuosisadan vaihteen suomalaisessa terveysvalistuksessa

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Bad bacteria, good mothers and normal families in Finnish health education at the turn of the century

This paper examines the normalisation of family life and the mother's role in it through a study of Finnish health education journals from the turn of the century. The key to the social hygienic thinking of this period is the progress in bacteriology. It revolutionized the field where applied medicine was operating: it helped to concentrate forces and presented the hygienic movement with a concrete enemy. The practical application of bacteriology involved the hectic cleaning of both public and private spaces as well as paying attention to the potentially infectious effect of relations between human beings. The fear of bacteria was channeled into a generalised vigilance against dirt. However, the problem remained of how to teach people to fight the common enemy. The answer was located in the role of women. They were to be the ‘guardian angels' of a brave new healthy world; they were to be the agents who realised the social hygienic project and led the way to a new sense of cleanliness.