1952: Dr. Benjamin Spock (left), Mayor David L. Lawrence with Kathleen Cameron on his knee (center) and Homer B. Hall, executive secretary of the Scaife Foundation (right). On the horse is Edwina Katkish. The photo was taken at the Arsenal Health Center Nursery School.
Pediatrician and author Dr. Benjamin Spock joined the University of Pittsburgh in 1951, five years after the publication of his definitive child-rearing manual that made his name a household word throughout the globe. He spent four years working at Pitt.
His Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, one of the biggest best-sellers of all time, influenced parents of several generations, from different countries, and has been translated into 42 languages.
Like 50 million Americans, I also was raised on Dr. Spock. Except, I was not born in America. My mom got hold of Dr. Spock’s bestseller Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care in then Soviet Kazakhstan in 1985 through her friend, whose mother was a journalist at a local newspaper Lenin’s Shift and through some mysterious connection received a copy of Spock’s book. “Our pediatricians didn’t tell us to read Benjamin Spock, that’s not how we learned about the book,” my mother said. “It was more of a hearsay, a grassroots mothers’ campaign to pass on good advice.”
“It was not political at all. It didn’t matter that Spock was an American,” she said. “His practical and straightforward advice and easy-to-understand insights would make perfect sense to any mother. The book was so easy to read.” There was a reason why the style of the book was so attractive. Dr. Spock dictated material for the book to his first wife Jane Cheney. Dictating the book helped to give it the conversational tone that appealed to my mother and so many other mothers who read Dr. Spock.
Advice from Spock’s book, which still lives in an ivory cover on the main bookshelf at my mother’s apartment, was a saving strategy to her as a working mom. “Spock was a genius in how simple he made it all sound. And it really wasn’t that bad. I am very grateful to him, it does not matter that I was a mother from the Soviet Union when I first read him. I don’t think I messed it up with you too badly. A hat tip to him!”
Well, thank you, Dr. Spock.