Yes, that’s right.
John Harold Hoodless, youngest son of Adelaide and John Hoodless did NOT die from what was known then as “Summer Complaint.”
First of all, what is “Summer Complaint”? Well, milk production before the age of pasteurization or regulated inoculations for dairy cattle was a nasty business. Many cows carried a form of tuberculosis and milk would often be stored in uncovered containers susceptible to flies, warm weather temperatures and even feces from dirty hands or the cows, themselves. Containers of milk, shipped to centralized dairies were combined with other containers of milk from other farms. Once delivered to homes, this contaminated milk was left in open containers on the doorstep. In the summer time, the heat would increase the production of harmful bacteria. Those with compromised immune systems were the most susceptible to something called “Summer Complaint” which is defined as an acute condition of severe diarrhea and dehydration that occurred most often during the hot summer months. Chiefly affected were infants and children who were often ingesting milk from a variety of sources other than breast feeding.
By the time Adelaide’s youngest child, John Harold, was born, glass bottle feeding was gaining in popularity– in part because so many women were either working outside of the home (post-industrial revolution factory work, for example) and others just embraced the convenience of not having to breastfeed. There was no such thing as sterilization or pasteurization on a mass scale or especially on a commercial scale (especially within the dairy industry). Lacking knowledge of hygiene and germs, baby bottles were often not fully cleaned and nipples weren’t usually changed until they disintegrated through continued use earning the bottles the deadly nickname of “murder bottles.”
We can only speculate about how devastated Adelaide must have felt at John Harold ’s death but we do know that afterward she campaigned tirelessly for the application of scientific knowledge to the training of women in the field of Domestic Science Education. In 1898 she wrote a textbook entitled “Public School Domestic Science.” It later became known as “The Little Red Book” and stressed the importance of hygiene, cleanliness and frugality as core components of a well-managed home. Adelaide, along with many of her social advocacy contemporaries, believed that “we cannot raise above the level of our homes” if the home was poorly managed.
So, what was the official medical cause of John Harold’s death? Meningitis