(Residential Fellow, 2020-21)
Risky Homes: Domestic Accidents from the Progressive Era to the Consumer Movement
Alex is a PhD student from the History of Medicine Department at Johns Hopkins. He received his BA from the University of California, Berkeley and his MA from the Literary and Cultural Studies program at the University of Oklahoma. His research broadly explores the intersections between science, American culture, and the home from the antebellum era to the mid-twentieth century. He has previously studied how Catharine Beecher used natural theology to validate her social advice for middle-class homemakers and how the Progressive-Era subfield of household bacteriology enabled ordinary women to detect and eliminate germs.
His dissertation concerns the history of domestic accidents from the 1900s to 1980 and seeks to describe how insurance firms, manufacturers, professionals, nonprofits, and laypeople identified and controlled physical hazards. Showing where burns, electrocutions, falls, and suffocations fit into the day-to-day experiences of American families, he focuses on the bodily and mental labor needed to keep homes safe. This “safety work” ranged from properly operating and maintaining stoves, electric lights, and ladders to learning about risks and buying safe appliances. Over time, accident management reshaped housework and the interactions between typical individuals who had to prevent, undergo, treat, and occasionally supply long-term care for mishaps. At the Linda Hall Library, Alex will combine sources from the National Safety Council, Consumer Reports, and Underwriters Laboratories to examine the safety advice delivered to citizen-consumers and contemporary programs to informally certify domestic technologies.