Among Baker's other accomplishments were a school inspection system and the organization and streamlining of record-keeping procedures for health departments, which was adopted nationwide. Her work laid the foundation for preventive health procedures that saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of babies, resulting in an improvement in mortality rates from one in six in 1907 to one in 20 by 1943. Devastated, she abandoned plans for attending Vassar and decided to go directly to New York Women's Medical College. Since she did not have an actual degree in the field of public health herself, she offered to teach in return for the opportunity to earn the diploma. She decided to study medicine and after a year of private While Baker did not leave records of her sexual orientation or identity, she maintained a close personal relationship with the novelist Ida Wylie, with whom she lived for many years. Baker developed measures that dramatically reduced infant mortality in New York City and laid the foundation for modern preventive public health strategies. In 1901 Baker was appointed a medical inspector for the city health department, and in 1907 she became assistant to the commissioner of health. Josephine Baker was born in a poor, black ghetto of St. Louis, Missouri, on June 3, 1906, to twenty-one-year-old Carrie MacDonald. Privacy Policy • Terms of Use [2]  At age sixteen, however, the sudden death of both her brother and her father left the family in financial trouble. Baker died of cancer on February 22, 1945, in New York City. Born and raised in Poughkeepsie, NY in a well-to-do white family, Baker’s mother Jenny Brown was one of the first women to enroll in Vassar College, and her father Orlando Daniel Mosher Baker was an eminent local lawyer. At the end of the summer the district had recorded 1,200 fewer cases of infant mortality than the previous summer. When Dean William Park turned down her request on the grounds that the medical school did not admit women, Baker refused the appointment. During her term as U.S. representative on the health committee of the League of Nations from 1922 to 1924, Baker was appointed consulting director in maternity and child hygiene of the U.S. Children's Bureau. In 1911 she organized and became president of the Babies Welfare Association; the next year it was reorganized as the Children’s Welfare Federation of New York, of which she was president until 1914 and chairman of the executive committee in 1914–17. She was the first woman to receive a doctorate in public health. From 1922 to 1924 she represented the United States on the health committee of the League of Nations. Baker's reception by some of the male students was hostile, but she continued teaching at NYU for 15 years. When Baker was 16 years old both her father and brother died in a typhoid epidemic. In addition to articles in popular and professional journals, Baker published Healthy Babies, Healthy Children, and Healthy Mothers (all 1920), The Growing Child (1923), Child Hygiene (1925), and an autobiography, Fighting for Life (1939). Baker remembered her childhood fondly, describing herself as a “tomboy type” who loved adventure stories, fishing, and baseball. She opened specialized clinics and instituted parent training by public health nurses. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. In 1908 the Department of Health established a division of child hygiene, with Baker as its director. A team of 30 nurses under her direction sought out every infant in the district, taught simple hygiene—ventilation, bathing, light clothing, breast-feeding—to the mothers, and made follow-up visits. Efficient and incorruptible, she established the world's first Bureau of Child Hygiene. Baker prepared at private schools for Vassar College, but the death of her father put that school out of reach. By that time the division’s health stations were caring for some 60,000 babies a year—half those born in the city. Unable to make ends meet, Baker took a job as a medical inspector for the New York City Department of Health. Josephine Baker helped to establish some of the first programs in preventative medicine and public health. Copyright © 2020 LoveToKnow. To deal with the inescapable problem faced by working mothers, Baker organized "Little Mothers’ Leagues" to provide training to young girls required to care for infants. After retirement she participated in more than 25 committees devoted to improving children's health care. In the summer of 1908 she was allowed to test her plan in a slum district on the East Side. As a result of her division’s work, the infant mortality rate in New York City fell from 144 per 1,000 live births in 1908 to 88 in 1918 and 66 in 1923. When her father died, she decided to become a physician, an … All Rights Reserved. In order to curb the enormous death rates among infants in the city, Dr. Baker used school nurses in the summer of 1908 to visit the homes of newborns to … Morantz-Sanchez, Regina Markell, Sympathy and Science: Women Physicians in American Medicine, Oxford University Press, 1985. Publishers were the start of the recording process, employing “song…. • Contributor Guidelines • Contact Us, Sara Josephine Baker: Public Health Pioneer by Karisa Butler-Wall.

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