Object 1: Baby Cage

May 27, 2021

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My interest in the knowledge surrounding child health care and development arose from a CAS engagement, babysitting three toddlers. The “health cage,” invented by Robert C Lafferty in the 1900’s, provided city-dwelling babies with fresh air and sunshine.

Designed to be suspended from the window so the child could
sleep outside, its use was stopped before it became commonplace
and understood how “airing” babies could be beneficial to them,
because the dominant value of protecting infants did not accept the ethics behind the object so building a barrier to innovation. However, Lafferty’s values motivated him to investigate further in order to improve babies’ health.

The cage is particularly interesting for this exhibition because a woman, Eleonor Roosevelt, who had no knowledge about child-care, bought a chicken wire to place her daughter in for naps. Her neighbours threatened to report her to child protection services. This suggests that the lack of knowledge about the human respiratory system and its development in young babies led to moral disagreement. As a result, this halted the development of the object which was believed to be beneficial for babies’ health.

It is possible to see how Lafferty’s values motivated him to design the device. He wanted to improve child health care, whilst giving a break to mothers: instead of having women watch over children outdoors, babies were able to do it behind bars unsupervised. Lafferty valued improvement in child health, leading him to explore this field, therefore investigating biologically and eventually allowing him to invent the ‘Baby cage’.

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