Baumgartner, Leona, 1902-1991

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Leona Baumgartner (1902-1991), A.B., 1923, University of Kansas; M.A., 1925, University of Kansas; Ph.D., 1932, Yale University; M.D., 1934, Yale University, was the first female Commissioner of Public Health for New York City, 1954 to 1962, and later became an Assistant Director of the Agency for International Development (AID), a position she held until 1965. She was named Visiting Professor of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston, in 1966, where she served until her retirement in 1972.

Leona Baumgartner was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1902 to Swiss immigrants William and Olga (Leisy) Baumgartner. The family relocated to Lawrence, Kansas in 1904 when William, a zoologist, accepted a faculty position at the University of Kansas. Baumgartner inherited her father’s keen interest in science and she received both a Bachelor’s degree in Bacteriology and a Master’s degree in Immunology from the University of Kansas in 1923 and 1925, respectively. During this time (and the years to follow), she served as a teacher at Colby (Kansas) Community High School. Following her education, Baumgartner was awarded a Rockefeller research fellowship at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, Munich, in 1928. Upon her return to the United States, Baumgartner enrolled at Yale University, where she subsequently received her Ph.D. in Immunology and her M.D. in 1934. Her internships in pediatrics during this time would be instrumental in shaping her career in public health, as she witnessed first hand the relationship between poverty and illness. In 1936, she joined the United States Public Health Service as Acting Assistant Surgeon before embarking on her long career with the City of New York in 1937.

Steadily rising through the ranks of city government, Baumgartner served as Director of Public Health Training (1938-1939), Director of the Bureau of Child Health (1941-1948), and Assistant Commissioner of Maternal and Child Health Services (1949-1953). After a brief hiatus, in which she acted as Associate Chief of the United States Children’s Bureau, Washington, D.C., Baumgartner returned to New York to work as Executive Director of the New York Foundation. In 1954, Mayor Robert Wagner appointed her Commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and in 1962, President John F. Kennedy named Baumgartner Assistant Administrator of Technical Cooperation and Research for the Agency of International Development, which made her the highest ranking female in government at the time. After her departure from the Agency for International Development, Baumgartner accepted a post as Visiting Professor of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School (1965), where she remained until her retirement in 1972. During this time she also served as Executive Director of the Medical Care and Education Foundation, Inc., Boston.

Throughout her career in public health administration, Baumgartner was dedicated to 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 was an important focus throughout her years in public service and informed her decision to promote family planning practices and birth control. She is credited with convincing President Lyndon Johnson to reverse a government policy denying funding for international programs providing birth control to make contraception more widely available. She was also an early advocate of using the Salk vaccine to immunize against polio and was an integral supporter of fluoridating New York City’s water supply. As Health Commissioner, Baumgartner continued in the vein 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.

Leona Baumgartner was married to Nathanial Elias, a chemical engineer, from 1942 until his death in 1964. She married Dr. Alexander D. Langmuir in 1970, who survived her after her death in 1991 from polycythemia.

From the guide to the Leona Baumgartner Papers, 1837-1993 (inclusive), 1930-1970 (bulk)., (Center for the History of Medicine. Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Sage Colleges Archives. Honorary degree recipient for 1955, Leona Baumgartner. The Sage Colleges Libraries
referencedIn Hardy, Harriet Louise, 1906-. Papers, 1910-1984 (inclusive), 1924-1980 (bulk). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Ira Vaughan Hiscock papers, 1918-1979, 1925-1939 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
creatorOf Personal Papers of Leona Baumgartner, 1911-1927 University of Kansas Kenneth Spencer Research Library University Archives
referencedIn New York Academy of Medicine. Committee on Public Health. Records, 1911-1968. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Fulton, John F. (John Farquhar), 1899-1960. John Farquhar Fulton papers, 1892-1988 (inclusive), 1920-1960 (bulk). Yale University Library
creatorOf [Leona Baumgartner, biographical materials] University of Wisconsin - Madison, General Library System
referencedIn Caldwell B. Esselstyn papers, 1945-1964 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn E. E. Cummings papers, 1870-1969. Houghton Library.
creatorOf Cushing, Harvey, 1869-1939. Homo chirurgicus, 1933. University of Michigan
referencedIn Esselstyn, Caldwell B., 1902-1975. Caldwell B. Esselstyn papers, 1945-1964 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Tri-State Regional Medical Program. Records of the Tri-State Regional Medical Program, 1965-1976 (inclusive). Harvard University, Medical School, Countway Library
referencedIn Hiscock, Ira Vaughan, 1892-. Ira Vaughan Hiscock papers, 1918-1979 (inclusive), 1925-1939 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Papers, 1910-1984 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn Records of the Agency for International Development. 1948 - 2003. Records Relating to the United Nations Conference on the Application of Science and Technology for the Benefit of the Less Developed Areas
creatorOf Baumgartner, Leona, 1902-. Leona Baumgartner papers, 1882-1960 (inclusive), 1926-1960 (bulk). Yale University Library
creatorOf Leona Baumgartner Papers, 1837-1993 (inclusive), 1930-1970 (bulk). Center for the History of Medicine. Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.
creatorOf WNYC (Radio Station : New York, N.Y.). WNYC collection of broadcast recordings [sound recording], 1938-1970. Municipal Reference & Res Center/Doris
referencedIn Calderone, Mary Steichen, 1904-1998. Papers, 1904-1983 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn John Farquhar Fulton papers, 1892-1988, 1920-1960 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Charles-Edward Amory Winslow papers, 1874-1977, 1915-1945 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn E. E. Cummings additional papers, 1870-1969. Houghton Library.
referencedIn Papers, 1904-1971 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
referencedIn William B. Provine collection of evolutionary biology reprints, 20th century. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
creatorOf Baumgartner, Leona, 1902-1991. Fracastoro Papers, 1935. Harvard University, Medical School, Countway Library
creatorOf WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.). Collection of broadcast recordings [sound recording], 1938-1970. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Eliot, Martha M. (Martha May), b. 1891. Papers, 1870-1978 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Winslow, C.-E. A. (Charles-Edward Amory), 1877-1957. Charles-Edward Amory Winslow papers, 1874-1977 (inclusive), 1915-1945 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Papers, 1898-1975 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
creatorOf Baumgartner, Leona, 1902-. Transcripts and tapes of interviews on the child development movement / interviewed by Milton J.E. Senn. National Library of Medicine
referencedIn Frank, Julia Bess. A Personal History of Dr. Leona Baumgartner covering the years 1906-1962 (with a bibliography of her published work, 1926-1972), 1977. Harvard University, Medical School, Countway Library
referencedIn Frank, Julia Bess. A personal history of Dr. Leona Baumgartner covering the years 1902-1962. Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Littledale, Clara Savage, 1891-1956. Papers, 1903-1982 (inclusive), 1903-1956 (bulk). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
referencedIn Kutner, Bernard. Bernard Kutner papers, 1952-1975. University of Akron, Bierce Library
referencedIn Fellowship of Helen Hadley Hall. Records of the Fellowship of Helen Hadley Hall, Yale University 1945-1978 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Baumgartner, Leona, 1902-1991. [Personal papers of Leona Baumgartner] University of Kansas Archives / MSS / Rare Books, Kenneth Spencer Research Library
referencedIn New York Times Company records. Arthur Hays Sulzberger papers, 1823-1999 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
referencedIn Paul A. Freund papers, 1918-1993 Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Calderone, Mary Steichen, 1904-1998. person
associatedWith Cummings, E. E. (Edward Estlin), 1894-1962 person
associatedWith Cushing, Harvey, 1869-1939. person
associatedWith Eliot, Martha M. (Martha May), b. 1891. person
associatedWith Esselstyn, Caldwell B., 1902-1975. person
associatedWith Fellowship of Helen Hadley Hall. corporateBody
associatedWith Fracastoro, Girolamo, 1478-1553. person
associatedWith Frank, Julia Bess. person
associatedWith Fulton, John Farquhar, 1856-1932 person
associatedWith Fulton, John F. (John Farquhar), 1899-1960. person
associatedWith Hardy, Harriet Louise, 1906- person
associatedWith Harriet Louise Hardy, 1906- person
associatedWith Hiscock, Ira Vaughan, 1892- person
associatedWith Kutner, Bernard. person
associatedWith Littledale, Clara Savage, 1891-1956. person
associatedWith MARTHA MAY ELIOT, 1891-1978 person
associatedWith MARY STEICHEN CALDERONE person
associatedWith New York Academy of Medicine. Committee on Public Health. corporateBody
associatedWith New York Times Company corporateBody
associatedWith Paul A. Freund person
correspondedWith Provine, William B. person
associatedWith Tri-State Regional Medical Program. corporateBody
associatedWith Winslow, C.-E. A. (Charles-Edward Amory), 1877-1957. person
associatedWith WNYC (Radio station : New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Syphilis
Poetry as Topic
Syphilis--Poetry
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1902-08-18

Death 1991-01-15

Latin,

French,

Italian,

English

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