’Better Baby’ Contests in the 1930-es and the Visualization of the Children Health.
Kristina Popova (Blagoevgrad)
The “Better Baby Contests” started in the USA at the beginning of the 20th century. These competitions were local initiatives among other biopolitical inventions to improve children’s health and to educate mothers. In the 1920s such “Better Baby Contests” started also in Balkan towns as the struggle for hygiene, health, cleanness, mother’s enlightenment and modern children care became stronger. The “Better Baby Contests” spread the activities of the new opened local children health centers and the work of the trained public health nurses. The paper is based on archival documents of some competitions in the 1930es. It presents the process of organization : the introduction of new techniques of control over families and documentation: the introduction of regular home visits and individual card indexes, where homes and living conditions were described and evaluated, different forms to educate and to stimulate mothers to follow doctor’s and nurses’ advises, rules and criteria of participation and classification in terms of “clean” and “dirty”. The local and central media discourse as well as the images of babies and mothers are also sources for the visualization of children in the context of the popular health promotion publications in the 1930-es. The paper tries to reveal the reception and interpretation of the competitions of the different agents: public health nurses, mothers, educators, politicians, journalists. The local children health centers, where the public health nurses were the main agents of the organization of the competitions, aimed to reform the child rearing and to improve their control over the living conditions in the visited homes. They aimed to establish modern hygiene norms using the competitions as well as different forms of social support. In the central media the “Better Baby Contests” were presented in a different way. They were used in the eugenic discourse to present the images of “healthy” babies as well as to stress the danger of birth rate decline in the late 1930-es.