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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

Fri., Sept. 20, 2013, midnight

From our archives, 100 years ago

Controversy reared its tousled little head at the Spokane Interstate Fair’s Better Babies Contest.

Well-known Spokane women’s suffrage leader May Arkwright Hutton took to the Spokane Daily Chronicle to decry this baby-evaluation contest as “a big advertising farce, run for the benefit of a few physicians.” 

Furthermore, she said, it was rife with favoritism. 

In the contest, babies were measured and weighed and evaluated for mental development and given a final percentage score. A few of the thousand-plus babies scored a perfect 100. Hutton charged that some of the “perfect” babies happened to belong to officers of the Interstate Fair. 

The rebuttal came the next day in The Spokesman-Review, which was one of the contest’s sponsors. Dr. C.W. Talbot said that the “advertising farce” charge was “a direct insult” to the doctors and nurses involved in the contest.

“As to the statement that favoritism is shown to the better dressed babies instead of those in calico, such an idea can be dispelled by a visit to the examining rooms, where scores of little nude babies are examined,” he said.

He blamed some of the criticism on sour grapes from mothers whose babies did not score well.

He offered to let all who were dissatisfied come back in for a re-examination, and they could bring their own family physician as a witness.

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