Join Midphase for the eighth day of Christmas as we explore the phenomenon behind the phrase “smooth as a milkmaid’s skin” as we count down the Twelve Days of Christmas.
Have you ever thought of taking a closer look at the gifts delivered in The Twelve Days of Christmas? Midphase did! We are analyzing each day for special significance as well as ultimate yuletide enjoyment.
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On the eighth day a true love gifts eight maids a-milking to his one and only. A somewhat strange gift, we know, but we have formed a hypothesis for exactly how this strange present could have been a lifesaver from the phrase “smooth as a milkmaid’s skin.”
This story actually harks back to the days before vaccinations were invented in the late 18th century. Some began to notice that milkmaids always had vibrant skin, clear of any dangerous pox that plagued the era. During this time, the country had been afflicted from the deadly disease known as smallpox. An English physician by the name of Edward Jenner took notice of the milkmaids’ beautiful skin and began to research this strange occurrence.
The answer amounted to another disease called cowpox. Milkmaids were exposed to cowpox during the milking process when the cows’ udders became infected. Jenner discovered that milkmaids who had been infected with cowpox didn’t show symptoms of smallpox. Although very similar to smallpox, cowpox was much milder and rarely resulted in death.
Jenner experimented with the relationship with the two diseases by extracting fluid from a cowpox sore and injected the fluid into an eight-year-old boy (not very ethical by today’s standards, but we will let it slide). A week later Jenner exposed the boy to smallpox and waited for a result. Amazingly, the boy didn’t get sick and was completely resistant to smallpox for the rest of his life. Jenner had succeeded in his fight against smallpox. Through this process a cure was discovered and countless lives were saved.
Medicine over the years has built upon Jenner’s early experimentation with diseases. You could safely say that without his somewhat risky research we might not have the life-saving vaccinations we do today. Through Jenner’s work smallpox was eradicated from the world.
So, the next time your true love offers you eight milkmaids to show you that he cares – be glad, for you never know the secrets that milkmaids hold!
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Happy Eighth Day of Christmas from Midphase!
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