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November 15

Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber
who is solely responsible for its content.
This document has been taken from emailed versions
of Women of Achievement. The complete episode
will be published here in the future.

Dr. Jo Baker


QUOTE by Sara Josephine Baker.

Sara Josephine Baker

      Born Nov. 15, 1873, Sara Josephine "Jo" Baker, doctor and public-health worker, founded the Bureau of Child Hygiene. Her revolutionary methods of teaching hygiene, providing nutrition, and prenatal care reduced infant mortality by 1200 a year, making New York City's infant mortality rate the lowest in the U.S., dropping infant deaths from 144/1000 live births in 1908 to 66/1000 in 1923.
      She designed baby clothes with front openings that eliminated suffocation. This first woman to serve the League of Nations in an official capacity and suffrager was a member of the influential Heterodoxy that networked women during the early part of the 20th century in the U.S.
      SJB's companions included Florence Laighton and Ida A. R. Wylie. She was one of the women chosen to lobby Congressmen and Senators in their Capitol offices for women's suffrage because of her great reputation.

      SJB was born into a privileged family. After her father died when she was 16, Sara Josephine Baker had to find a profession to earn a living. She chose medical school over the objections of family and friends.
"Only the chorus of I-told-you-so's that would have greeted me kept me from dropping it all and going home," she said. Her medical practice in 1899 netted her $185 the first year so she went to work for the city. Because of the anti-female prejudices, she was assigned the terrible job of going from hovel to hovel in the tenemants in New York City to inspect for contagious diseases such as dysentery, small-pox, typhoid fever, etc.
"This time I had let myself in for a really grueling ordeal. In my district, the heart of old Hell's Kitchen on the West Side, the heat, the smells, the squalor made it something not to be believed. I climbed stair after stair, knocked on door after door, met drunk after drunk, filthy mother after filthy mother and dying baby after dying baby." Dr. Baker recalled in her autobiography Fighting for Life.
      Her success in the slums, as well as apprehending Typhoid Mary twice, gained her the appointment as assistant health commissioner. Her all-male staff promptly resigned. She cajoled them back.
      Going door-to-door with a team of 30 nurses, Dr. Baker taught basic hygiene, nutrition, ventilation. She established free milk stations, devised a simple baby formula, created training for older children who had to care for younger when the mother went to work to earn food for the family, invented the "obvious but previously unthought- of, system of making baby clothes all open down the front." (Since babies had been strangling in the old-fashioned clothes, Metropolitan Life Insurance sent out 200,000 patterns of Dr. Baker's new baby clothes styles to their customers.) She also invented a method of safely packaging and administering silver nitrate solution used to prevent blindness at birth from gonorrheal infection.
      Under her guidance the infant mortality rate of 1,500 per week dropped to 300 and soon New York could claim the lowest infant mortality rate in the world. She retired in 1923 after all 48 states had copied her methods.
      A reluctant feminist at first, she found herself drawn into
"the great struggle to get political recognition of the fact that women are as much human beings as men are." She was a member of the delegation that visited Woodrow Wilson in the White House to receive his official endorsement of the Nineteenth Amendment.
      Even with her huge accomplishments, she was not allowed to earn a doctorate in public health because she was a woman - although she was invited to be guest lecturer at the New York University Medical School.

Martina Navratilova who officially retired from professional tennis November 15, 1994, had earned more money on the pro tennis tour than any other player, had won more tournaments than any other man or woman, had been lauded for her sports dignity - and as of that time had not received one endorsement contract because of her up-front stance as a lesbian.

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B. 11-15-1861, Margaret Angela Haley, union activist, worked on behalf of school teachers, revamping their unions into true representatives of the teachers, not the school boards. When Chicago teachers were refused raises because of alleged poverty of the system, she and a friend investigated tax assessments and forced reassessments of utilities. She got raises for the teachers after two appeals to the Supreme Court. MAH is responsible for pioneering pension plans for teachers and teacher tenure laws in Illinois.

B. 11-15-1871, Bertha Muzzy Bower, author, who signed her 57 published westerns B.M. Bower to get them published. Chip of the Flying U is one f her best known works.

B. 11-15-1887, Georgia O'Keeffe, renowned artist specializing in sensual flowers and her beloved New Mexico.

B. 11-15-1887, Marianne Craig Moore, American poet, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1951, National Book Award 1952, National Institute of Arts and Letters gold medal 1953. Her first book of poetry edited by Hilda Doolittle and Winifred Ellerman had been published in England without her permission to force her to publish her work. Edited The Dial, noted literary magazine of the time. She was usually photographed wearing a tricorn hat. Her mother was an English teacher.

Event 11-15-1983, the U.S. House of Representatives votes NOT to reintroduce the Equal Rights Amendment, which had failed ratification by the margin of three states on June 30, 1982.

Event 11-15-1991, after citing the question of censorship, Penn State officials removed the nude painting of the lover of Francisco de Goya from a classroom. A woman professor had complained that the painting on the wall behind her prevented her from appearing professional.
      When school officials finally agreed to remove the nude, a male art professor pulled down several other paintings saying,
"I did not want to get in a whole debate over what should be up and what shouldn't, so we took them all down." He forgot to mention that NO FRONTAL NUDES OF MEN have EVER appeared as art on the walls of the college.

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      "The way to keep people from dying from disease, it struck me suddenly, was to keep them from falling ill. Healthy people don't die. It sounds like a completely witless remark, but at that time it was a startling idea. Preventative medicine had hardly been born yet and had no promotion in public health work."
            -- Josephine Baker.

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