Amy Zanoni is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Rutgers University, specializing in the history of social movements, health care and welfare policy, and political economy. She received an M.A. from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and a B.A. from McGill University. Amy’s work has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Rutgers University Center for Cultural Analysis, the Walter P. Reuther Library, the Illinois State Historical Society, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. She is also a 2019-2020 Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellow in Religion and Ethics.
Poor Health: Retrenchment and Resistance in Chicago’s Public Hospital, 1945-2002
Public hospitals are a major pillar of the American welfare state. This dissertation charts the history of attempts to privatize this vital sector through the lens of Chicago’s only public hospital, Cook County Hospital (CCH). It details the motivations of those who initiated the reorganization of public hospitals, reveals the marks retrenchment left on the bodies of the most vulnerable, and recovers the alternative visions of those who fought for health care as a human right and a public good. Prevailing understandings of the late twentieth century suggest that welfare state decline occurred because Americans accepted the privatization of public institutions they saw as sites of inefficiency and social control. In contrast, this dissertation centers the broad-based movement that mobilized to resist retrenchment, arguing that activists formulated a vision I call the “safety-net welfare state.” Bridging the histories of social movements, health care and welfare policy, and the history of medicine, “Poor Health” sheds light on the embodied experiences of political economic transformation in late twentieth-century Chicago.