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COLLECTION Identifier: H MS c306

Elinor Kamath papers, 1838-1987 (inclusive)

Overview

The Elinor Kamath papers, 1838-1987 (inclusive), 1956-1984 (bulk) are the product of Kamath’s research, writing, and professional activities during her career, particularly her her activities in the 1960s and 1970s as Research Associate with the Stanford University Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, Palo Alto, California. Kamath's research focused on the events commonly referred to as the thalidomide disaster, in which pregnant women who took thalidomide to treat morning sickness gave birth to babies with congenital conditions, such as absence or malformation of limbs. The collection is arranged in six series: I. Thalidomide research records, 1958-1983; II. Writings, 1956-1979, III. Professional records, 1943-1982; IV. Professional travel records, 1977-1979; V. Personal records, 1882-1984; and VI. Collected publications, 1838-1976.

Dates

  • 1838-1987 (inclusive)
  • Majority of material found within 1956-1984

Language of Materials

Papers are in English. Some papers are in French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, and Swedish.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Some restrictions apply (see below).

Access requires advance notice. Contact Public Services for further information.

Access to personnel and patient information is restricted for 80 years from the date of creation. These restrictions are noted where they appear in Series I and III. Access to confidential corporate records is restricted for 50 years from the date of creation. These restrictions are noted where they appear in Series I. Researchers may apply for access to restricted records. Consult Public Services for further information.

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 Public Services. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from Public Services are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.

Extent

6.6 cubic feet (6 records center cartons, 1 legal size document box, 1 half letter size document box, 1 flat file drawer)
The Elinor Kamath papers, 1838-1987 (inclusive), 1956-1984 (bulk) are the product of Kamath’s research, writing, and professional activities during her career, with emphasis on her activities in the 1960s and 1970s as a Research Associate with the Stanford University Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, Palo Alto, California. The collection is arranged in six series: I. Thalidomide research records, 1958-1983; II. Writings, 1956-1979, III. Professional records, 1943-1982; IV. Professional travel records, 1977-1979; V. Personal records, 1882-1984; and VI. Collected publications, 1838-1976.

Thalidomide research records (Series I) constitutes the bulk of the collection, and consists of: court records from Diamond vs. William Merrill and Co. and Richardson-Merrell and McCarrick vs. Richardson-Merrell; collected medical articles; notes, including interview notes; and correspondence with lawyers, pharmaceutical representatives, and others. Writings (Series II) consists of Kamath’s writings, including her translation work and an undated draft of her unpublished manuscript, Echo of Silence: The Causes and Consequences of the Thalidomide Disaster. Professional records (Series III) consists primarily of resumes, grant applications, and research proposals. Professional travel records (Series IV) includes budget records, contact information, and travel itineraries for research trips, especially a 1978 trip to Europe. Personal files (Series V) consists of genealogical records and personal correspondence. Collected Publications (Series VI) includes published volumes from the 1970s related to social work in Germany, medicine in society, and a German directory, collected for use in Kamath’s research, as well as nineteenth- and early twentieth-century pamphlet publications by or about physicians from Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, and/or Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

The papers are predominantly in English. Some papers are in French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, and Swedish.

Biographical Note

Elinor Ruth Kahn Kamath (1915-1992), A.B., 1935, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California; A.M., 1936, University of California, Berkeley, was an international medical journalist and later a researcher in the Stanford University Department of Community and Preventive Medicine. Her research focused on the events commonly referred to as the thalidomide disaster or thalidomide crisis, in which pregnant women who took thalidomide to treat morning sickness gave birth to babies with congenital conditions, such as absence or malformation of limbs.

Elinor Ruth Kahn Kamath was born on April 18, 1915 in Oakland, California. She earned her A.B. magna cum laude in political science and history at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California in 1935. In 1936, she earned her A.M. in Political Science: Public Administration from the University of California, Berkeley. From 1936 to 1950, Kamath held a variety of research and statistical positions, including at Stanford University Department of History and School of Education; the City and County of San Francisco Civil Service Commission, California; the Pacific Coast Labor Bureau in San Francisco, California; the American Communications Association in Washington, D.C.; the CIO Maritime Committee, also in D.C.; the Hotel Trades Council, New York, New York; the International Typographical Union of Stamford, Connecticut; the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union; and the Independent Progressive Party of California. After serving as a Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Prague, Czechoslovakia for the National Maritime Union from 1951 to 1959, Kamath moved to Europe, where she lived from November 1959 to June 1974. From 1959 to 1963 she worked part time for the World Wide Medical News Service/Medical Tribune in Bonn, Germany, covering health in Germany as well as medical congresses, and in November 1961, she was the first reporter to write about thalidomide in the United States. She spent three years doing freelance writing from her base in Paris, France, before she was contracted by the Department of Public Information of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland (1967-1968). From 1969 to 1974, Kamath was a Liaison/Administrative Officer in Programme Co-ordination at Grade P-4 in the Division of Co-ordination of the World Health Organization, also in Geneva, during which time she worked closely with other United Nations organizations. When she returned to the United States in 1974, she became a writer and editor for Ken Melmon, the chairman of the Department of Medicine at Stanford University. She also served as a Research Associate in the Department of Family, Community, and Preventive Medicine at Stanford.

Kamath devoted many years of research to the thalidomide disaster. She researched the involvement of medical professionals and pharmaceutical officials and regulators; as well as the lives of thalidomide victims, who later came to refer to themselves as "thalidomiders." The thalidomide disaster was the result of a minimally-tested drug given to pregnant women in several countries. The drug led to many incidences of significant birth defects in their children. Kamath studied court cases, newspaper clippings, and medical reports, and corresponded with pharmaceutical company representatives, medical researchers, and others. She wrote a manuscript on the thalidomide crisis titled Echo of Silence: The Causes and Consequences of the Thalidomide Disaster, which was never published. She also translated news articles and a book on health from French to English.

She married M. V. Kamath (1921-2014) of India, and they divorced in 1980. She died May 18, 1992 in Contra Costa, California.

Collection Arrangement

  1. I. Thalidomide research records, 1958-1983
  2. I.A. Court case records, 1958-1976
  3. I.B. Research records and correspondence, 1956-1983
  4. I.C. Lenz archives, 1962-1979
  5. II. Writings, 1956-1979
  6. II.A. Publishing records, 1956-1979
  7. II.B. Translations, 1961-1978
  8. III. Professional records, 1943-1982
  9. IV. Professional travel records, 1977-1979
  10. V. Personal records, 1882-1984
  11. VI. Collected publications, 1838-1976

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Immediate source of acquisition for a portion of the collection is unknown. Acquisition information about an accrual is below.
  1. Accession Number2009-005.

Related Collections in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Center for the History of Medicine

Collections at Other Institutions related to thalidomide in the United States

Resources

The following article informed the choice of terminiology used to describe thaliomiders in this finding aid:

Processing Information

Processed by Charlotte Lellman, under the supervision of Amber LaFountain, 2018 April.

Processing staff in the Center for the History of Medicine analyzed, arranged, rehoused, and described the papers, and created a finding aid to improve access. Items were removed from three ring binders, and oversize envelopes were photocopied to acid-free paper. Folder titles were transcribed from the originals. Devised titles are written in brackets on the physical folders.
Link to catalog
Title
Kamath, Elinor, 1915-1992. Papers, 1838-1987 (inclusive), 1956-1984 (bulk): Finding Aid.
Author
Charlotte Lellman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
EAD ID
med00497

Repository Details

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

Contact:
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