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For a more detailed biography, see the inventory for her papers, MC 229 .

From the guide to the Additional papers, 1870-1978, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

MME, a pediatrician, was a national and international child health expert and advocate. For a more detailed biography, see the inventory for her papers, MC 229 .

From the guide to the Papers, 1909-1979, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Dr. Martha May Eliot, pediatrician, fourth Chief of the Children's Bureau, national and international child health expert and advocate, was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on April 7, 1891. After graduation from Radcliffe College (1913) and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (1918), she held internships and/or residencies in Boston, St. Louis, and in New Haven, where she also taught at Yale University School of Medicine (1921-1935). Dr. Eliot was associated with the Children's Bureau (CB), which she joined in 1924, for over 30 years, serving as Chief from 1951 to 1956. She helped found the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), of which she was Assistant Director-General, 1949-1951. After retiring as Chief of the CB, she became Professor of Maternal and Child Health at the Harvard School of Public Health, a post she held until 1960. Active in numerous professional and service organizations, she headed the Massachusetts Committee on Children and Youth (MCCY) for ten years until retiring in 1970.

Of particular importance in this collection are 10 childhood letters and 15 folders of letters from MME to her parents (1914-1928), most of them written during her years of medical training.

During the 1920s Dr. Eliot conducted pioneering research on the prevention and control of rickets and wrote a revision of the government's best-selling Infant Care . As head of the CB's health and medical services she helped develop the maternal and child health (MCH) and crippled children's programs under the Social Security Act. During World War II she supervised the Emergency Maternity and Infant Care (EMIC) program and worked on nutrition for war-torn countries.

More comprehensive documentation of Dr. Eliot's CB career from these years (1924-1945) is in the National Archives. For example, while this collection does include MME's articles on rickets, it contains no information on the Sheppard-Towner maternity program of the 1920s. MME's role in originating the Social Security Act is not documented; most of the material from the 1930s concerns the Technical Committee on Medical Care and the National Health Conference of 1938. Dr. Eliot's wartime work for nutrition is documented, but there are only three folders--plus several articles and speeches--on EMIC. There are some folders on Social Security Act legislation (after 1938) and on CB appropriations and reorganization for the 1930s and 1940s. The more detailed CB material dates from the 1950s and includes the above categories as well as material about juvenile delinquency.

MME served as the official U.S. representative to various international health conferences. She was the only woman to sign the document creating WHO at the International Health Conference of 1946. She helped develop public health services, and MCH and other medical programs, in countries requesting WHO assistance, and promoted the cooperative relationship between WHO and UNICEF: she helped set up, and served on, the joint health committee of the two organizations. Her international activities also included several trips during which she surveyed and reported on MCH conditions in many countries, represented here by lengthy and detailed notes on these trips and by the resultant reports. (However, there is little official WHO or UNICEF correspondence.)

MME served on the Visiting Committee for the Harvard School of Public Health in the years before she joined the faculty (1957-1960) as one of the few women with full professorial status. Correspondence and lecture notes comprise the bulk of the documentation for this part of her career.

Dr. Eliot brought her national and international experience in MCH to the state level in her work for the MCCY (1959-1970). Representative of MCCY activities during these years are: a study of the public welfare system of Massachusetts which resulted in new legislation, a study of youth services, and several local studies of MCH services.

MME was affiliated, at various times, with over 35 professional and service organizations, most of them related to medical care. The first woman to be elected president (1947) of the American Public Health Association, she also served on several of its committees and conducted a study on the teaching of MCH in schools of public health (1961-1962); and she was president of the National Conference of Social Work (later named the National Conference on Social Welfare), 1949-1950. While the collection does not include the official presidential correspondence of the APHA or NCSW, the American Parents Committee is substantially represented, as are the Association for the Aid of Crippled Children, the Child Welfare League of America and many other national, state and local organizations which MME served.

Dr. Eliot received 11 honorary degrees and more than 12 other awards and honors, including the Lasker Award (APHA, 1948) and the Howland Award (American Pediatric Society, 1967). Papers about these awards, and approximately 550 of MME's articles and speeches further document the career and influence of this active physician-administrator.

From the guide to the Papers, 1898-1975, (Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Papers, 1909-1979 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Papers, 1898-1975 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Additional papers, 1870-1978 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Abbott, Edith, 1876-1957 person
associatedWith Abbott, Grace, 1878-1939 person
associatedWith Addams, Jane, 1860-1935 person
associatedWith American Academy of Pediatrics corporateBody
associatedWith American Legion. National Child Welfare Division corporateBody
associatedWith American Parents Committee corporateBody
associatedWith American Public Health Association corporateBody
associatedWith Anderson, Mary, 1872-1964 person
associatedWith Association for the Aid of Crippled Children corporateBody
associatedWith Association of State and Territorial Health Officers corporateBody
associatedWith Bain, Katherine, 1897- person
associatedWith Baumgartner, Leona, 1902- person
associatedWith Beck, Bertram M. person
associatedWith Bethune, Mary McLeod, 1875-1955 person
associatedWith Bierman, Jessie Marguerite, 1900- person
associatedWith Bolton, Frances Payne, 1885- person
associatedWith Bradbury, Dorothy E. person
associatedWith Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965 person
associatedWith Breckinridge, Sophonisba Preston, 1866-1948 person
associatedWith Brooke, Edward William, 1919- person
associatedWith Bunting, Mary Ingraham, 1910- person
associatedWith Calderone, Mary Steichen, 1904- person
associatedWith Campbell, Loraine Leeson, 1905- person
associatedWith Children's Mission to Children, Boston corporateBody
associatedWith Child Welfare League corporateBody
associatedWith Clothier, Florence, 1903- person
associatedWith Cohen, Ethel person
associatedWith Cohen, Wilbur Joseph, 1913- person
associatedWith Dewson, Mary Williams, 1874-1962 person
associatedWith DiCicco, Cecilia Frances, 1920- person
associatedWith Dunham, Ethel Collins, 1883-1969 person
associatedWith Eisenhower, Dwight David, 1890-1972 person
associatedWith Eliot, Abigail Adams, 1892- person
associatedWith Eliot, Christopher Rhodes, 1856-1945 person
associatedWith Eliot family family
associatedWith Eliot, Frederick May, 1889-1958 person
associatedWith Eliot, Mary Jackson May, 1859-1926 person
associatedWith Eliot, Thomas Stearns, 1888-1965 person
associatedWith Frankfurter, Felix, 1882-1965 person
associatedWith Furcolo, Foster, 1911- person
associatedWith Goldmark, Josephine Clara, 1877-1950 person
associatedWith Harper, Paul Alva, 1904- person
associatedWith Harvard University. School of Public Health corporateBody
associatedWith Hecht, George Joseph, 1895- person
associatedWith Hill, Lister, 1894- person
associatedWith Hobby, Oveta Culp, 1905- person
associatedWith Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964 person
associatedWith Johnson, Lyndon Baines, 1908-1973 person
associatedWith Kennedy, Edward Moore, 1932- person
associatedWith Kennedy, John Fitzgerald, 1917-1963 person
associatedWith Keyserling, Mary Dublin, 1910- person
associatedWith Lathrop, Julia Clifford, 1858-1932 person
associatedWith Lehman, Herbert H 1878-1963 person
associatedWith Lenroot, Katharine Frederica, 1891- person
associatedWith Lesser, Arthur Jacques, 1909- person
associatedWith Massachusetts Committee on Children and Youth corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts Committee on Children and Youth Schmidt corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts Conference on Children and Youth, 1960 corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts. Department of Public Health corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts. Department of Public Welfare corporateBody
associatedWith Massachusetts. Department of Youth Services corporateBody
associatedWith McCormack, John William, 1891-1973 person
associatedWith National Association of Social Workers corporateBody
associatedWith National Congress of Parents and Teachers corporateBody
associatedWith National Federation of Settlements corporateBody
associatedWith National Health Conference, 1938 corporateBody
associatedWith Nixon, Richard Milhous, 1913- person
associatedWith Oettinger, Katherine Brownell, 1903- person
associatedWith Park, Edwards Albert, 1877-1969 person
associatedWith Pate, Maurice, 1894-1965 person
associatedWith Perkins, Frances, 1880-1965 person
associatedWith Peterson, Esther Eggertsen, 1906- person
associatedWith Pilpel, Harriet Fleischl, 1911- person
associatedWith Polier, Justine Wise, 1903- person
associatedWith Powers, Grover Francis, 1887- person
associatedWith Radcliffe College corporateBody
associatedWith Reid, Joseph Harold, 1916- person
associatedWith Ribicoff, Abraham A 1910- person
associatedWith Rice, Elizabeth Prince, 1900- person
associatedWith Robins, Margaret Dreier, 1868-1945 person
associatedWith Robinson, Reginald, 1907- person
associatedWith Roche, Josephine, 1886-1976 person
associatedWith Rockefeller, Nelson Aldrich, 1908- person
associatedWith Rockwood, Edith, 1888-1960 person
associatedWith Rogers, Edith Nourse, 1881-1960 person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Anna Eleanor, 1884-1962 person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Franklin Delano, 1882-1945 person
associatedWith Saltonstall, Leverett, 1892- person
associatedWith Schmidt, William Morris, 1907- person
associatedWith Schottland, Charles Irwin, 1906- person
associatedWith Smith, Donald Cameron, 1922- person
associatedWith Smith, Margaret Chase, 1897- person
associatedWith Stough, Ada Barnett, 1903- person
associatedWith Switzer, Mary Elizabeth, 1900-1972 person
associatedWith Taussig, Helen Brooke, 1898- person
associatedWith Truman, Harry S, 1884-1973 person
associatedWith U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare corporateBody
associatedWith U.S. Department of Labor. Children's Bureau corporateBody
associatedWith U.S. Department of State. Office of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations corporateBody
associatedWith Volpe, John Anthony, 1908- person
associatedWith Wald, Lillian D., 1867-1940 person
associatedWith White, Eva Whiting, 1885-1974 person
associatedWith White House Conference on Children and Youth, 1960 corporateBody
associatedWith William Morris, 1907- person
associatedWith World Health Organization corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Spokesmen for Children
Child welfare--Massachusetts


Birth 1891

Death 1978

Related Descriptions


Ark ID: w6j23hzc

SNAC ID: 40039230