When Abigail Adams inoculated her children

Here is a taste of Ronald Shafer’s piece at The Washington Post:

At the dawn of the American Revolution, the world was fighting smallpox just as it now is battling the novel coronavirus.

Like the novel coronavirus, smallpox was “a highly contagious virus that is transmitted from contact with an infected person, causing illness,” said Jonathan Stolz, a retired physician in Williamsburg, Va., and author of “Medicine from Cave Dwellers to Millennials.” More than 100,000 people in the colonies died of smallpox. Scientists around the world were desperately seeking to develop a vaccine.

People are now beginning to receive vaccines to prevent covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, which so far has killed nearly 300,000 Americans. In 1776, the only medical preventive was an inoculation that had been developed in Boston in the 1720s by Cotton Mather, a Puritan minister, and Zabdiel Boylston, a physician, and was based on techniques shown to them by enslaved Africans, including one of Mather’s enslaved men, Onesimus. But the procedure was considered so dangerous that a number of states eventually banned it.

So many people ignored the ban, however, that in June 1776, Massachusetts suspended its prohibition, and many doctors set up shop in Boston to perform inoculations.

Abigail Adams headed to Boston with her four children — 11-year-old Abigail (called “Nabby”), John Quincy, age 9; Charles, age 6, and 4-year-old Thomas. She had the support of her husband, who had gone through the painful process of inoculation in 1764 and wanted his family protected.

Read the entire piece here.