Over on our soon-to-be-vacated blogspot.com site, my Brayboy cousin Karen Burney had this to say in the comments:
Craig, that is a great artifact.
Sorry to be the “Devils Advocate” but thought I would share some thoughts on why these policies were so popular and seemed a good investment then and even now.
First, as you point out, the primary purpose of a life insurance policy is provide for the survivors’ needs in the event of the insured’s premature death. I am a person who has personally witnessed several deaths of infant children and have seen how emotionally devastating it can be. So much, to the point, that the parent(s) in question were not able to work for a period of time due to the grief. State and other disability allotments, then and now do not provide an adequate benefit amount to replace the parents salary. Also, many employers while sympathetic may not hold a job for an individual while they are undergoing their period of grief. I have also seen this first hand.
Also, in earlier times infant mortality was much higher than it is now. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), at the the beginning of the 20th century, for every 1000 live births, approximately 100 infants died before age 1 year old. The CDC opined that environmental interventions, improvements in nutrition, advances in clinical medicine, vaccinations, access to health care, surveillance and monitoring of disease, increases in education levels, and improvements in standards of living have now contributed to a remarkable decline. For a more detailed explanation, you can go to http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4838a2.htm
In my own family history, I have many ancestors and relatives past and present who have lost multiple children under the age of l year old to childhood diseases, pneumonia, cancer and other factors. One great-grandmother lost 6 chidren.
Thank goodness, medical advances have been made to reduce the number of infant deaths but they do still occur.
I know that .76 cents a week does not seem a lot these days but back in earlier times it might have meant the difference in going hungry or not during your grieving period. Some of my relatives have shared that back in the 1940′s, some people were only making a dollar a week.
FYI – In 1949, the minimum wage was raised from 40 cents an hour to 75 cents an hour. You can find additional information regarding minimum wage at: http://www.dol.gov/esa/minwage/coverage.htm
Anyway, given the high infant death rate, parents who had already lost an infant(s) or knew others who had, may have thought it was more feasible to pay a 5 cents premimum in the event one of their children died and they were not able to work for a while as a result of it. Just a thought.
Your cousin, Karen
And I replied:
And a good thought, too. I may have committed the historian’s grievous error of looking at something through the cultural lens of today. Thanks for your insights, Karen!
By the way, please visit Karen at Louisiana Lineage Legacies
August 8, 2008 Friday at 4:00 am