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H MS c305

Baumgartner, Leona, 1902-1991. Papers, 1837-1993 (inclusive), 1930-1970 (bulk): Finding Aid.

Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)

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Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)

© President and Fellows of Harvard College


The Leona Baumgartner Papers were processed with grant funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, as awarded and administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), 2009.

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: H MS c305
Repository: Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)
Creator: Baumgartner, Leona, 1902-1991
Title: Leona Baumgartner Papers,
Date(s): 1837-1993 (inclusive),
Date(s): 1930-1970 (bulk)
Quantity: 89 cubic feet (84 record cartons, 2 legal sized document boxes, 1 small oversize flat storage box, and 4 large oversize flat storage boxes).)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: 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 to1962, and later became an Assistant Director of the Agency for International Development, 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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Records were gifted to the Center for the History of Medicine from a number of repositories, including Cornell University Medical College (November 1973) and Yale Medical School (March 1998).

Processing Information:

Processed by Michael Dello Iacono, Cheryl Ostrowski, and Suzanne Denison, November 2009.
Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, and described the records and created a finding aid to improve access to the collection. To enhance preservation, processing staff rehoused the collection and, where necessary, removed rusted staples and paper clips, and photocopied documents onto acid-free paper. Records were removed from hanging files, notebooks, and plastic binders, and were rehoused in acid-free folders. All folder titles were transcribed from the originals. Duplicate records and records that did not meet the collection policy of the Center for the History of Medicine were discarded.

Conditions Governing Access:

Access requires advance notice. Access to Harvard Unviersity records is restricted for 50 years from the date of creation. These restrictions are noted where they appear in Series I. Access to personal and patient information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions appear in Series I and V. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. Consult the Public Services Librarian for further information.
The Leona Baumgartner Papers are stored offsite. Researchers are advised to contact reference staff concerning retrieval of material.

Conditions Governing Use:

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all the materials in the collection. Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to the Public Services Librarian. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from the Public Services Librarian are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright. Reference Services and Access Information.

Preferred Citation:

Leona Baumgartner Papers, 1837-1993 (inclusive), 1930-1970 (bulk), H MS c305. Harvard Medical Library, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Boston, Mass.

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Biographical Note

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.

Resources

Series and Subseries in the Collection

Scope and Content

Records in this collection were created by Leona Baumgartner during the course of her career as a state public health administrator and consultant, physician, lecturer, professor, and contributing member of professional health care boards and foundations from 1930 to1970. The collection consists of: research materials and reports from the International Development Institute (New York), the Health Research Insititute of New York, the Harvard Center for Health Services, the American Public Health Association, and the Harvard School of Public Health; notes for maternal and child welfare papers and presentations; lecture and speech drafts for talks delivered by Baumgartner as New York City's Commissioner of Public Health; personal and professional correspondence generated during Baumgartner's years of service to New York City Department of Health, and tenures as Executive Director of the New York Foundation, Associate Chief of the United States Children's Bureau, and Visiting Professor of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School; research data and laboratory notes compiled while a student at Yale University, as well as notes from later global population studies, reports, and journals (including draft articles from Baumgartner and others), newspaper articles and magazine clippings; conference materials, administrative records, meeting minutes, appointment books, and photographs from Baumgartner's domestic and international trips and award ceremonies, and scrapbooks. The collection also contains records generated from Baumgartner's personal activities, including her travel diaries, collected family records (letters, diaries and notebooks), personal photographs, and awards, medals, plaques, diplomas, and other memorabilia.
The bulk of materials are in English. Some early family records are in German.

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