• IdentificationMSHami79
  • Title
    • Alice Hamilton collection MSHami79
    • Hamilton, Alice collection
  • PublisherSpecial Collections
  • LanguageEnglish
  • RepositorySpecial Collections
  • Physical Description0.25 Linear feet
  • Date1913-1995
  • AbstractThis collection includes published material by Alice Hamilton, newspaper clippings regarding her career, a commemorative U.S. postage stamp, and a book review of Barbara Sicherman's biography. Correspondence with Nicolette Malone, Lea D. Taylor, Russell Ward Ballard, and Francesca Molinaro is also included.
  • OriginationHamilton, Alice

Old Resource ID was AHamilton

Alice Hamilton was born on February 27, 1869 to Montgomery and Gertrude (Pond) Hamilton in New York City and grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana at the family compound presided over by her wealthy paternal grandmother. Her parents taught Alice literature, history, as well as ancient and modern languages before she attended Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut (1886-1888). Alice Hamilton studied science at the Fort Wayne College of Medicine and received her M.D. from the University of Michigan in 1893. An internship at the Northwestern Hospital for Women and Children (1893-1894) was followed by postgraduate study in pathology and bacteriology at the University of Michigan, the universities of Leipzig and Munich in Germany, and at John Hopkins Medical School. After becoming a professor of pathology at the Woman's Medical School of Northwestern University in 1897, she became a resident of Hull-House.

Alice Hamilton's work at Hull-House was wide ranging from teaching classes in anatomy to immigrants to running a "well baby clinic," but her primary focus was medical research in public health and occupational safety. She studied antibodies, scarlet fever, and several other diseases. Her study of the 1902 typhoid epidemic that struck the Hull-House district influenced the Chicago Board of Health to appoint a new chief sanitary inspector. She conducted medical surveys and worked closely with groups interested in public health such as the Visiting Nurse Association. Hamilton's 1909 study of over 1600 working-class families linked high infant mortality rates with high birth rates. Opposed to abortion, Hamilton was an early advocate of birth control and supported the work of gynecologist, Rachelle Yarros.

Appointed to the Illinois Commission on Occupational Diseases, Hamilton served as medical director of a special survey of lead poisoning in 1910. Her pioneering research combined laboratory investigation with extensive fieldwork and documented more than seventy unsafe industrial processes. Illinois passed a new occupational disease law in 1911 and Hamilton proceeded to become President of the Chicago Pathological Society in that same year.

Hamilton was appointed a special investigator for the U.S. Bureau of Labor in 1911 and later joined the Bureau of Labor Statistics within the Department of Labor in 1913. She continued her studies of lead poisoning and other toxic substances in the workplace and made every effort to publicize industrial diseases. Her efforts on behalf of workers led her to become increasingly active in progressive politics, and she supported Jane Addams' pacifism and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

Alice Hamilton became an assistant professor of industrial medicine at Harvard Medical School in 1919, becoming the first woman ever to hold a professorship at the university. She published two important textbooks: Industrial Poisons in the United States (1925) and Industrial Toxicology (1934).

Recognizing that changing technology and new industrial processes generated new health threats, she joined public efforts to deal with tetraethyl lead in 1925 and radium in 1928, sometimes working with the National Consumers' League. She participated in the landmark President's Research Committee on Social Trends (1930-1932) often voicing criticism of capitalism as a system. Her professional work and activism extended beyond the United States with service on the Health Committee of the League of Nations (1924-1930). Formal retirement from Harvard in 1935 did not end Alice Hamilton's career as she continued many of her political activities including a stint as president of the National Consumers' League (1944-1949) and outspoken criticism of U.S. military action in Vietnam.

This collection includes published material by Alice Hamilton, newspaper clippings regarding her career, a commemorative U.S. postage stamp, and a book review of Barbara Sicherman's biography. Correspondence with Nicolette Malone, Lea D. Taylor, Russell Ward Ballard, and Francesca Molinaro is also included. Some of this material was originally held as part of the Esther Loeb Kohn Papers.

Schultz, Rima Lunin and Adele Hast, eds. Women Building Chicago, 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

Alice Hamilton collection, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Illinois at Chicago

  • Names
    • Hamilton, Alice -- Archives
    • Hull-House (Chicago, Ill.).
  • Subject
    • Chicago Health Sciences History.
    • Public health.
  • Geographic CoverageIllinois.