Posts tagged: Leona Baumgartner

2014-2015 Women in Medicine Fellow: Dr. Rebecca Kluchin

By , July 7, 2014

The Archives for Women in Medicine is pleased to announce our 2014-2015 Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine Fellow: Rebecca Kluchin, Ph.D.

Rebecca M. Kluchin, 2014-2015 Women in Medicine Fellow

Rebecca M. Kluchin, 2014-2015 Women in Medicine Fellow

Dr. Kluchin is an Associate Professor of History at California State University, Sacramento, and studies the history of women’s reproductive health in the United States.  Her first book, Fit to Be Tied: Sterilization and Reproductive Rights in America, 1950-1980 (Rutgers University Press, 2005), won the Francis Richardson Keller-Sierra Award for best monograph published in 2009 from the Western Association of Women’s Historians.  Her current project, Pregnancy and Personhood: The Maternal-Fetal Relationship in America, 1850 to the Present, examines the evolution of the public and private relationship between a woman and her pregnancy and explores the ways in which changing definitions of fetal rights, fetal personhood, maternal responsibility, and abortion have shaped the experiences and cultural understanding of pregnancy for millions of women across race and class.

Kluchin’s research shows that efforts to grant personhood rights to the “unborn” in the United States date back to the 1850s and have not always been embroiled in the politics of abortion. Pregnancy and Personhood considers the extent to which women’s experience with prenatal care, pregnancy, and motherhood has been influenced by maternal-fetal politics and studies how these politics have changed over time and why. During her time at the Countway, Kluchin will make use of numerous collections including the papers of Alan Guttmacher, Arthur T. Hertig, John Rock, Leona Baumgartner, Amalie Kass and Benjamin Osgood and as well as the records of the Boston Lying-In Hospital. Among other things, she will track the evolution of prenatal care and the language physicians used to describe the fetus and their pregnant patients’ relationship to it.  She will also consult the Countway’s collection of obstetrics guides from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well as the papers of M. Judah Folkman as they relate to thalidomide.

The Women in Medicine Fellowships are offered in partnership with the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine.

A Researcher Reports: Erin Flynn, Harvard College ’13

By , April 24, 2013

Erin Flynn is a Harvard Undergraduate, concentrating in History and Science, with a secondary in Global Health and Health Policy. She will graduate in May 2013. Erin spoke with us about her experiences conducting research at the Center for the History of Medicine.

What was the topic of your thesis? Why did you select that topic?
My thesis, entitled, “The Right of Every Infant:” Community Health, Social Pathology, and the Boston Maternity and Infant Care Project, 1967-1981, discusses health disparities and maternal and infant health in the context of the City of Boston (specifically, the Boston Maternity and Infant Care Project, or MIC).  It was quite a journey to get to that topic – I began by thinking about female surgeons, then the social history of breast cancer, and then came upon the Leona Baumgartner papers at the suggestion of Dr. Scott Podolsky, my thesis adviser.  As a pioneer in medicine, public health, and global health, Baumgartner inspired me not only because of her achievements but also because of her clearly charismatic and dogged personality in both innovating in health as well as entering a historically male-dominated field.

What were your initial thoughts about going to the Center for the first time to use the special collections? Had you been in the Countway Library before this year?
I had been to the Countway library once before this year, to meet with my adviser, Scott Podolsky.  I remember being in awe when I first came to the Center – I felt a sense of being truly immersed in history.  I had never done an archival project before, and was so impressed by all the Center had to offer.  The beautiful Holmes Hall reading room, full of historical artifacts and books, was a great environment in which to conduct my first major research project.

Were you able to find the necessary materials and information about the collections via Hollis and Oasis? Were there other resources that you found helpful? Which collections(s) did you use?
To find the materials I needed, I relied heavily on Oasis and the archivists, as well as my adviser.  I was drawn to the Baumgartner papers because they were relatively newly available, and I wanted to work on a project that had been as yet unexplored by historians.  I found that novelty value in the MIC, the papers of which I discovered in the Baumgartner archives.

Owners and Donors: new rare book exhibit at Countway Library

By , March 20, 2012

Arthur Orton, the Tichborne Claimant, in 1873, Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

Owners and Donors
Building the Rare Book Collection at the Countway Library of Medicine


The Countway Library is built from gifts—gifts large and small, made over many years.  It was the generosity of Sanda Countway in 1958 which provided over three million dollars for a building and allowed Harvard Medical School and the Boston Medical Library to ally their collections, forming the largest academic biomedical library in the country.  But aside from stone and mortar, the collections of the Countway reflect a tradition of generosity spanning nearly two hundred years.  Drs. James Jackson, John Collins Warren, and other members of Harvard’s early faculty began to donate books to form a medical library for the students in 1816.  In 1889, just a few years after the formation of the Boston Medical Library, Oliver Wendell Holmes contributed his personal collection of over 900 rare medical works, laying the cornerstone for a remarkable historical collection.

Such generosity is not just a thing of the past, though, and extraordinary gifts continue to complement the already vast array of books, manuscripts, prints, photographs, artwork, artifacts, instruments, and specimens preserved in the collections of the library, archives, and museum here at the Center for the History of Medicine.  Owners and Donors: Building the Rare Book Collection at the Countway Library of Medicine honors just a few of the individual men and women—Drs. Leona Baumgartner, John Warren, Jacob James Longacre, and Richard Van Praagh, and the Kennedy and Ohl families—who have contributed collections or even single items to enhance the rare book collections here at the Countway over the years.   The exhibit also highlights a few of the library’s special collections—some familiar, such as the anatomical library of Friedrich Tiedemann, and some almost unknown, such as the witchcraft books of Christian Deetjen, the Boston Medical Library’s collection of the works of Sir William Osler, and the John Rathbone Oliver Criminological Collection with its remarkable assortment of ephemera concerning the Tichborne Claimant legal case of the 1870s—as well as some of the funds and gifts which continue to allow for new acquisitions, making the rare book holdings of the Countway among the greatest in the world.

Owners and Donors is  on display now through December in the exhibit space on lower level 2 of the Countway, adjoining the Center for the History of Medicine.  For further information, contact the Center at or 617-432-2170.

2011-2012 Women in Medicine Fellow announced

By , April 28, 2011

Hilary Aquino, Ph.D.

The Archives for Women in Medicine is pleased to announce our 2011-2012 Foundation for The History of Women in Medicine Fellow: Hilary C. Aquino, Ph.D.

Dr. Aquino’s project, Dr. Leona Baumgartner: Crusader for the Public’s Health, will explore the newly opened Baumgartner papers here at the Center for the History of Medicine. Her research seeks to provide insight into the ways in which Dr. Baumgartner shaped the direction and focus of the New York City Department of Health, as Director of the Bureau of Child Health, Assistant Commissioner of Maternal and Child Health Services, eventually becoming the first female Commissioner of the entire department. Aquino will explore Dr. Baumgartner’s views on improving the access to and quality of medical care for urban minorities, specifically women and children. She will also examine the ways in which Baumgartner sought to improve the health of women and children in the developing world in the 1960s in her role as Assistant Director for the Agency for International Development.

Dr. Aquino received her B.A. from Dickinson College in History and French, and my M.A., Graduate Women’s Studies Certificate and Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Aquino is Assistant Professor of History at Albright College in Reading, PA, where she teaches the Social History of Medicine and Public Health, the History of Female Healers, United States Women’s History, Women’s Studies and American Indian History.

The Women in Medicine Fellowships are offered in partnership with the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine.

February 7: Public Health Exhibit and Event

By , November 29, 2010


(L to R) Drs. Quentin Gaiman, Donald Augustine, and Thomas Weller of the HSPH Department of Tropical Public Health.

Please join us on February 7, 2011 from 4:00-6:00 PM at the Countway Library for a panel discussion with three distinguished leaders in global health and medicine.

Dissolving Boundaries: Extending the Reach of Medicine and Public Health.

The fields of medicine and public health continue to change, confronting issues of ever-greater magnitude, and framed by debates concerning the boundary between organized medicine and public health, national versus global health concerns, and personal versus societal responsibility. Successful efforts to engage such issues are critically dependent upon a historical understanding of their evolution.The event will feature lecture and discussion from

  • Allan Brandt, Ph.D., Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; Professor of the History of Science; Amalie Moses Kass Professor of the History of Medicine.
  • Julio Frenk, M.D., Ph.D., Dean of the Faculty, Harvard School of Public Health; T & G Angelopoulos Professor of Public Health and International Development, Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Kennedy School
  • Jeffrey S. Flier, M.D., Dean of the Faculty, Harvard Medical School; Caroline Shields Walker Professor of Medicine

An accompanying exhibit, curated by Center staff, will draw from the archival collections of key leaders in American public health from the twentieth century, including Leona Baumgartner, Allan Macy Butler, Philip Drinker, Alice Hamilton, Howard Hiatt, Alexander Langmuir, David Rutstein, Richard Pearson Strong, and James Whittenberger.



Leona Baumgartner and Girolamo Fracastoro

By , September 2, 2010
Engraving of Girolamo Fracastoro

Engraving of Girolamo Fracastoro by Theodor de Bry, 1598. Portrait Collection, Boston Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

In addition to her work in public health administration, Dr. Leona Baumgartner (1901-1991) was a noted scholar, bibliophile, and book collector, publishing historical studies on Leonardo, Harvey Cushing, and prison reformer John Howard.  In the 1930s, while at Yale, Dr. Baumgartner worked with John Farquhar Fulton, M.D., to produce an annotated bibliography of editions of the poem Syphilis by Girolamo Fracastoro.

Fracastoro (1478-1553), a Veronese physician and philosopher, is best remembered for his composition of Syphilis, sive morbus Gallicus, first printed in 1530.  This didactic poem, some 1,300 lines of Latin hexameter, describes the origins, symptoms, and cure of the venereal disease to which the poem’s hero, the shepherd, Sifilo, gives his name.  In their 1935 biobibliography, Baumgartner and Fulton identified the various Latin editions of the Fracastoro poem and its translations into Italian, English, French, and German—one hundred entries in all.  The Boston Medical Library collection here in the Countway has thirty-six different specimens of the poem, including a copy of the first printing from Verona in 1530.  Many of these were formerly in the personal collections of Leona Baumgartner or John Farquhar Fulton.

A Latin edition of the Syphilis printed in London in 1720 was digitized as part of Harvard’s Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics project and now several other examples from the collection will soon be made available through the Medical Heritage Library.

Bookplate of Leona Baumgartner

Bookplate of Leona Baumgartner. Boston Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

For more information about the Medical Heritage Library, see the project’s webpage at:

Coming in February 2010: “Dissolving Boundaries: Extending the Reach of Medicine and Public Health”

By , August 16, 2010

Richard Pearson Strong (third from right) and colleagues on The Harvard African Expedition of 1934. From the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

Upcoming exhibit: “Dissolving Boundaries: Extending the Reach of Medicine and Public Health”

The several decades following the end of World War II have been described as a barren era for public health in America, as traditional public health emphases such as acute infectious disease receded, and the nation turned to research-based biomedicine and biotechnology to solve its medical concerns. Yet this era witnessed a striking – and still under-examined – era in public health, as physicians and public health leaders began to grapple with such central issues as the organization and delivery of medical care, maternal and child health, poverty, end of life care, smoking and alcoholism, obesity, and, increasingly, social justice and the assurance of health as a basic human right worldwide.

Today, such fields continue to change, confronting issues of ever-greater magnitude, and framed by debates concerning the boundary between organized medicine and public health, national versus global health concerns, and personal versus societal responsibility. Successful efforts to engage such issues are critically dependent upon a historical understanding of their evolution.

Dissolving Boundaries will draw from the collections of key leaders in American public health from the latter half of the twentieth century Continue reading 'Coming in February 2010: “Dissolving Boundaries: Extending the Reach of Medicine and Public Health”'»

Leona Baumgartner papers, 1830-1979, open for research

Leona Baumgartner receiving the Elizabeth Blackwell Award in 1961. From the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

Leona Baumgartner (1902-1991), was the first female Commissioner of Public Health in New York City from 1954-1962 and later became an Assistant Director of the Agency for International Development until 1965. She was named Visiting Professor of Social Medicine and Harvard Medical School in 1966 where she served until her retirement in 1972. Throughout her prominent career in public health administration, Baumgartner was dedicated to health education as a cornerstone of building a healthier community. After becoming district health officer in 1939 she coordinated a growing number of health services such as school health programs, parenting classes and clinics on venereal disease. Maternal and child health care was an important aspect throughout her years in public services which informed her decision to promote family planning practices and birth control. She is credited with convincing President Lyndon Johnson to reverse government policy on funding for international programs providing birth control to make contraception more widely available. She was an early advocate using the Salk vaccine to immunize against polio and was an integral advocate for fluoridation of New York City’s water supply. As health commissioner, Baumgartner continued in the vain of Dr. S. Josephine Baker, who began a tradition of home health visits, by giving weekly radio and television addresses that tackled topics such as home safety and sanitation practices. The recipient of numerous honors, Baumgartner was awarded the Sedgwick Medal, the Albert Lasker Award, the Elizabeth Blackwell Award, the Samuel J. Crumbine Award and the Public Welfare Award from the National Academy of Sciences in recognition of her many contributions to the field of public health.

The records in this collection were created by Dr. Leona Baumgartner during the course of her career as a state public health administrator and consultant, physician, lecturer, professor, and contributing member of professional health care boards and foundations from 1930 to 1970. The collection consists of research materials, notes, lecture and speech drafts, correspondence, research data, reports, journals, news articles and clippings, conference materials, administrative records, minutes, appointment books, laboratory notes, photographs, and scrapbooks. The collection also contains records generated from Baumgartner’s personal activities, including her travel diaries, letters and notebooks, personal photographs, awards, medals, plaques, diplomas, and other memorabilia.

Click here to view the finding aid

Foundations of Public Health Policy (FPHP) is an initiative currently funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). With grant funding, the Center for the History of Medicine is enabling, for the first time, access to the manuscript collections of influential leaders in the field of public health and public health administration. FPHP is part of the Center’s larger effort to chronicle the history of public health, starting with the Harvard School of Public Health, its centers, and its institutes.

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