Alice Hamilton collection

 An inventory of the collection at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Summary Information

Richard J. Daley Library Special Collections and University Archives
Hamilton, Alice
Alice Hamilton collection
Date [inclusive]
0.25 Linear feet
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.

Preferred Citation

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

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Biographical Sketch

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.

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Scope and Contents

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.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Richard J. Daley Library Special Collections and University Archives March 2005

801 S. Morgan Street
Chicago, Illinois, 60607

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Hamilton, Alice -- Archives


  • Chicago Health Sciences History.
  • Hull-House and Settlement House History.
  • Public health -- Illinois.

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

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Collection Inventory

Series I: Alice Hamilton Collection 

Box Folder

"Below the Surface." Survey Graphic 23:9: 449-454, 486, September 1933 

1 1

"The Eight-Hour Day for Women in Industry," Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, undated 

1 2

"The Health Committee of the League of Nations." Pax International, December 1928 

1 3

"Industry and the Youthful Worker", undated 

1 4

"A Medieval Industry in the Twentieth Century." Survey: 457-464, February 1924 

1 5

"Rehabilitation of Boiled Milk." Survey 31: 303, 1913-1914 

1 6

"Poison Trades." The Doctor Looks at Child Labor New York: The National Child Labor Committee, 1919 

1 7

"Sound and Fury in Germany." Survey Graphic: 459-554, 575-579, November 1933 

1 8

"Witchcraft in West Polk Street." The American Mercury: 71-75, January 1927 

1 9

"Woman's Place in Germany." Survey Graphic: 26-29, 46-47, January 1934 

1 10

"Women in Harness." Five Years of Hitler New York: American Council on Public Affairs, ca. 1937 

1 11

"Women Workers and Industrial Poisons." U.S. Department of Labor Bulletin of the Women's Bureau No. 57, 1926 

1 12

Meizner, N.J. "Physician in the Factory: Alice Hamilton, Pioneer." Job Safety and Health U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration 5:12, 9-12, December 1977 

1 13

"Alice Hamilton." Harvard University: The President's Report, pp. 25-26, 1969-1970 

1 14

Newspaper clippings regarding Alice Hamilton's 90th and 100th birthdays, death, and career; commemorative U.S. postage stamp; book review of Sicherman, Barbara. Alice Hamilton: A Life in Letters, undated 

1 15

Letter to Nicolette Malone from Alice Hamilton, 18 September 1934 

1 16

Correspondence with Lea Taylor, 1943 

1 17

Correspondence, 1927 

1 18

Correspondence with Richard T. Ely, 1904 

1 19

Correspondence with Russell Ward Ballard, 1945-1969 

1 20

Correspondence with Francesca Molinaro, 1934-1965 

1 21

Material from Quaker Headquarters, Moscow, 19 October 1924 

1 22

Weber, Catherine E. Forrest. "Alice Hamilton, M.D.: Crusader Against Death on the Job." Traces 7:4, Fall 1995 

1 23

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