S. Josephine Baker (1873–1945) was a pioneering American public health physician and the first director of New York’s Bureau of Child Hygiene. Her work with poor mothers and children in the immigrant communities of New York City had a dramatic impact on maternal and child mortality rates and became a model for cities across the country. On two occasions she helped to track down the infamous “Typhoid Mary,” the cook who had spread the disease while working in several New York households. The first woman to earn a doctorate in public health from New York University–Bellevue Hospital Medical School, Baker wrote fifty journal articles and more than two hundred pieces for the popular press about issues in preventive medicine, as well as six books: Healthy Babies (1920), Healthy Mothers (1920), Healthy Children (1920), The Growing Child (1923), Child Hygiene (1925), and her autobiography, Fighting for Life (1939).
In 1918, Dr. S. Josephine Baker made the shocking assertion that front-line soldiers enjoyed better survival rates than infants born in NYC. And then she did something about it, developing hygiene programs that turned the city into one of the safest places to be born and in the process creating the discipline of preventive medicine. Here she recounts her many crusades, including her successful identification of Typhoid Mary and work as a suffragist.