[OASIS] Harvard University Library
OASIS: Online Archival Search Information System
http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:RAD.SCHL:sch00281View HOLLIS Record   Frames Version
Questions or Comments   Copyright Statement

On July 16, 2018, OASIS will retire. It will be replaced by HOLLIS for Archival Discovery. Please explore.
MC 229

Eliot, Martha M. (Martha May), 1891-1978. Papers of Martha May Eliot, 1898-1975: A Finding Aid

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University


Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: MC 229
Repository: Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Creator: Martha M. (Martha May) Eliot, 1891-1978
Title: Papers of Martha May Eliot, 1898-1975
Date(s): 1898-1975
Quantity: 31.69 linear feet (76 file boxes) plus 1 folio+ folder, 1 oversize folder, 1 oversize volume)
Language of materials: Materials in English.
Abstract: Correspondence, speeches, articles, etc., of Martha May Eliot, pediatrician and child health expert.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Accession numbers: 1666, 70-121, 73-63, 73-138, 74-43, 74-96, 75-84, 76-115
The papers of Martha May Eliot were deposited with the Schlesinger Library from 1969 to 1976 by Martha May Eliot. A grant from The Rockefeller Foundation financed the cataloguing of this collection as well as more than 30 hours of oral interviews with Eliot. (For transcript, see OH 1: Eliot.) The interviews provide more detail on Eliot's career before 1950; the papers provide more information on the post-1950 period.

Processing Information:

Processed: August, 1976
By: Linda J. Henry

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use:

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Martha May Eliot is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.
Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Preferred Citation:

Martha May Eliot Papers, 1898-1975; item description, dates. MC 229, folder #. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Martha May Eliot Papers, 1909-1979 (MC 329) and Martha May Eliot Additional papers, 1870-1978 (78-M89--78-M183).


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, 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 Children's Bureau, 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 Eliot 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 Children's Bureau'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 Children's Bureau career from these years (1924-1945) is in the National Archives. For example, while this collection does include Eliot's articles on rickets, it contains no information on the Sheppard-Towner maternity program of the 1920s. Eliot'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 Emergency Maternity and Infant Care program. There are some folders on Social Security Act legislation (after 1938) and on Children's Bureau appropriations and reorganization for the 1930s and 1940s. The more detailed Children's Bureau material dates from the 1950s and includes the above categories as well as material about juvenile delinquency.
Eliot served as the official United States representative to various international health conferences. She was the only woman to sign the document creating World Health Organization at the International Health Conference of 1946. She helped develop public health services, and maternal and child health program and other medical programs, in countries requesting World Health Organization assistance, and promoted the cooperative relationship between World Health Organization 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 maternal and child health program conditions in many countries, represented here by lengthy and detailed notes on these trips and by the resultant reportypescript (However, there is little official World Health Organization or UNICEF correspondence.)
Eliot 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 maternal and child health program to the state level in her work for the Massachusetts Committee on Children and Youth (1959-1970). Representative of Massachusetts Committee on Children and Youth 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 maternal and child health program services.
Eliot 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 maternal and child health program 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 American Public Health Association or National Conference of Social Work, 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 Eliot served.
Dr. Eliot received 11 honorary degrees and more than 12 other awards and honors, including the Lasker Award (American Public Health Association, 1948) and the Howland Award (American Pediatric Society, 1967). Papers about these awards, and approximately 550 of Eliot's articles and speeches further document the career and influence of this active physician-administrator.


The collection is arranged in eleven series:


The papers are arranged chronologically within each Series, except Series VI and X, which are arranged alphabetically.Series I. Biographical. Folders 1-8. Biographical information is also included in newsclippings and articles about Eliot's several appointments (Children's Bureau, World Health Organization, etc.) and her various honors and awards.Series II. Family and Personal Papers. Folders 9-53. Correspondence with Edwards A. Park, while mostly personal, also contains material on the Children's Bureau and maternal and child health program activities.Series III. Articles and Speeches by Martha May Eliot. Folders 54-135. Eliot's articles and speeches cover the entire range of her activities (Children's Bureau, World Health Organization, Massachusetts Committee on Children and Youth, etc.). Folders 55 and 56 contain a chronological list of all her articles and speeches, most of which are in this series. These folders include partial lists of Eliot's testimony, which is filed in other series.Series IV. Honors and Awards. Folders 136-150Series V. The Children's Bureau. Folders 151-446, Volumes 1-5. The Children's Bureau material is arranged according to Eliot folder labels. The divisions are not exclusive: for example, Section A (Chiefs) includes information on appropriations, juvenile delinquency, etc.; Section E (Social Security Act amendments) includes information on reorganization; and so on. It is divided into seven subseries: A. Chiefs; B. National Health Care, 1934-1949; C. Reorganization; D. Appropriations; E. Social Security Act amendments; F. Juvenile Delinquency; and G. General, 1949-1962, which includes histories of the Children's Bureau. It also includes information on legislation not covered in Sections B-F; some of this legislation is only marginally related to the Children's Bureau.Series VI. National Organizations and Conferences (alphabetical arrangement). Folders 447-579. These folders cover many maternal and child health program topics and include some Children's Bureau activities, mostly for the years after Eliot left the Children's Bureau. Material from these same organizations for the years before 1957 is generally found according to subject in Series V (Children's Bureau). The exception is the American Parents Committee material, most of which is included in this series. Series VII. International. Folders 580-767. It is divided into five subseries: A. Trips; B. Postwar Planning; C. UNICEF; D. World Health Organization; and E. Miscellaneous.Series VIII. Harvard School of Public Health. Folders 768-790Series IX. Massachusetts Committee on Children and Youth. Folders 791-972, Volumes 6-8. It is divided into six subseries: A. Internal; B. Massachusetts Conferences on Children and Youth and White House Conferences on Children and Youth, 1960 and 1970; C. Massachusetts Division of Youth Services Study and Legislation; D. Public Welfare Study and Legislation; E. Medical Assistance Programs; and F. Other Projects and Miscellaneous.Series X. Other State and Local Activities (alphabetical arrangement). Folders 973-1031, Volume 9o. Included are Eliot memberships in organizations, on boards of institutions, on committees, or as a consultant for special projects. In some of this work, Eliot represented the Massachusetts Committee on Children and Youth; this series, therefore, includes some information related to Series IX.Series XI. Other Correspondence and Notes. Folders 1032-1063


Terms: The term "correspondence" includes, or may refer only to: typescript and manuscript letters, including drafts; memoranda; and telegrams. Correspondence may also include attached enclosures: other correspondence, notes, newsclippings, reports, etc. Copies are not designated as such in the Inventory. Approximately 1/2-2/3 of the papers are carbon or mimeographed copies or photocopies.



This index lists writers and recipients of letters, memoranda and telegrams. Information about or articles by these individuals are not indexed; nor are subjects. Correspondence may be to or from Martha May Eliot, or between others, and may be either carbon copies or photocopies. It also refers to correspondence of individuals who served organizations, only some of it official. The number(s) after each entry refer to folders.


This is a selective index of organizations in the collection; it includes some conferences and some Massachusetts hospitals and government departmentypescript It also refers to correspondence of individuals who served organizations, only some of it official.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

Birth control--Massachusetts
Child care
Child welfare--Developing countries
Child welfare--Massachusetts
Crippled children--Law and legislation
International agencies
Juvenile delinquency--Massachusetts
Massachusetts Conference on Children and Youth (1960)
Maternal and infant welfare
Maternal and infant welfare--Developing countries
Medical care
National Health Conference (1938)
Public health--International cooperation
Public health--Study and teaching
Public welfare--Law and legislation--Massachusetts
White House Conference on Children and Youth (1960 : Washington, D.C.)
Women in science--United States
Women pediatricians--United States
Women physicians--United States
World War, 1939-1945--Civilian relief
Abbott, Edith, 1876-1957
Abbott, Grace, 1878-1939
Addams, Jane, 1860-1935
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Legion. National Child Welfare Division
American Parents Committee
Anderson, Mary, 1872-1964
American Public Health Association
Association for the Aid of Crippled Children
Association of State and Territorial Health Officers
Bain, Katherine, 1897-1999
Baumgartner, Leona, 1902-1991
Beck, Bertram M.
Bethune, Mary McLeod, 1875-1955
Bierman, Jessie M., 1900-1996
Bolton, Frances Payne Bingham, 1885-1977
Bradbury, Dorothy E.
Breckinridge, Mary, 1881-1965
Breckinridge, Sophonisba Preston, 1886-1948
Brooke, Edward W. (Edward William), 1919-2015
Bunting-Smith, Mary Ingraham, 1910-1998
Calderone, Mary Steichen
Campbell, Loraine Leeson, 1905-1982
Child Welfare League of America
Children's Mission to the Children of the Destitute
Clothier, Florence, 1903-1987
Cohen, Ethel, 1892-1977
Cohen, Wilbur J. (Wilbur Joseph), 1913-1987
Dewson, Molly, 1874-1962
DiCicco, Cecilia Frances, 1920-2003
Dunham, Ethel Collins, 1883-1969
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Eliot, Abigail Adams, 1892-1992
Eliot, Christopher Rhodes, 1856-1945
Eliot, Frederick May, 1889-1958
Eliot, Mary Jackson May, 1859-1926
Elliott family
Frankfurter, Felix, 1882-1965
Furcolo, Foster, 1911-1995
Goldmark, Josephine Clara, 1877-1950
Harper, Paul Alva, 1904-2003
Harvard School of Public Health
Hecht, George J. (George Joseph), 1895-1980
Hill, Lister, 1894-1984
Hobby, Oveta Culp, 1905-1995
Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973
Kennedy, Edward M. (Edward Moore), 1932-2009
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Keyserling, Mary Dublin
Lathrop, Julia Clifford, 1858-1932
Lehman, Herbert H. (Herbert Henry), 1878-1963
Lenroot, Katharine F. (Katharine Fredrica), 1891-1982
Lesser, Arthur Jacques, 1909-2005
Massachusetts. Committee for Children and Youth
Massachusetts. Department of Public Health.
Massachusetts. Department of Public Welfare
Massachusetts. Department of Youth Services
McCormack, John W., 1891-1980
National Association of Social Workers
National Congress of Parents and Teachers
National Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
Oettinger, Katherine Brownell, 1903-1997
Park, Edwards Albert, 1877-1969
Pate, Maurice, 1894-1965
Perkins, Frances, 1880-1965
Peterson, Esther, 1906-1997
Pilpel, Harriet F.
Polier, Justine Wise, 1903-1987
Powers, Grover Francis, 1887-1968
Radcliffe College--Alumni and alumnae
Reid, Joseph H.
Ribicoff, Abraham, 1910-1998
Rice, Elizabeth P. (Elizabeth Prince)
Robins, Margaret Dreier
Robinson, Reginald
Rockefeller, Nelson A. (Nelson Aldrich), 1908-1979
Roche, Josephine Aspinwall, 1886-1976
Rockwood, Edith, 1888-1952
Rogers, Edith Nourse, 1881-1960
Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945
Saltonstall, Leverett, 1892-1979
Schmidt, William Morris, 1907-1989
Schottland, Charles I.
Smith, Donald Cameron, 1922-2014
Smith, Margaret Chase, 1897-1995
Stough, Ada Barnett, 1903-1996
Switzer, Mary Elizabeth, 1900-1971
Taussig, Helen B. (Helen Brooke), 1898-1986
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972
United States. Children's Bureau
United States. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare
United States. Department of State. Office of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations
Volpe, John
Wald, Lillian D., 1867-1940
White, Eva Whiting, 1880-1974
World Health Organization.