“In A Good Time to Be Born, [Klass] takes the most complex human patterns of all—history, medicine, politics, art—and knits them into something unique and beautiful.”

—The New York Times

A Good Time To Be Born

How Science and Public Health Gave Children a Future


The fight against child mortality that transformed parenting, doctoring and the way we live.

Only one hundred years ago, even in the world’s wealthiest nations, children died in great numbers—of diarrhea, diphtheria and measles, of scarlet fever and meningitis. Culture was shaped by these deaths; diaries and letters recorded them, poets and writers wrote about and lamented them. Not even the high and mighty could escape: presidents and titans of industry lost their children, the poor and powerless lost theirs even more frequently.


The near-conquest of infant and child mortality is one of our greatest human achievements. Perri Klass pulls the story together for the first time, paying tribute to scientists, public health advocates, and groundbreaking women doctors who brought new scientific ideas about sanitation and vaccination to families. Thanks to their work, early death is now the exception, bringing about a massive transformation in society and freeing parents to worry a lot more about a lot less.

Book talk: Scarsdale Adult School

April 22, 2021

1:00 pm ET

In conversation with cultural historian Lori Rotskoff, Dr. Perri Klass will discuss her new book that chronicles the scientific discoveries and public health initiatives that dramatically reduced the incidence of infant and child mortality in the U.S. and beyond. Klass shows how advances in vaccines, sanitation, and antibiotics revolutionized medical care for children and families over the past century. She also reveals how parenting manuals, children’s nursery rhymes, popular novels, and visual artists depicted common infections and responded to changing threats to babies’ and children’s welfare.


While we are now mostly spared from diseases like measles and tuberculosis, parents face concerns about mental health and anxiety, environmental toxins, vaccine controversies, continued access to affordable healthcare, health issues on college campuses, and COVID-19. Klass makes sense of the often confusing and contradictory health information online and in the news and will also share insights from her wide-ranging career as a pediatrician, journalist, public health advocate, and professor. Time will be allotted at the end for a Q&A and audience discussion with the author.

Learn more and register here.




Missed a talk? You can find recorded talks here.