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COLLECTION Identifier: A-22: Vt-34

Papers of Alice Hamilton, 1909-1987 (inclusive), 1909-1965 (bulk)


Correspondence, articles, speeches, notes, clippings, and awards of physician Alice Hamilton.


  • Creation: 1909-1987
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1909-1965


Language of Materials

Materials in English.


Access. Unrestricted. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. The donor has transferred any copyright she held in these papers to Radcliffe College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in some papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the director of the Schlesinger Library before publishing quotations from materials in the collection.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


1.9 linear feet ((4+1/2 file boxes) plus 1 oversize folder, 1 videotape)

As indicated above, these papers came to the Schlesinger Library in two separate installments. The first was divided, probably by the processor, into three sections: biographical papers, "Non-Medical Controversies," and "Medical Investigations and Controversies." Published items were individually numbered, with folder titles giving only the numbers of the items they contained. The 1971 accession, consisting of Hamilton papers temporarily in the possession of her colleague Harriet Hardy, was simply added on to the original collection. In reprocessing the papers, the processor has integrated the two accessions, maintaining the distinction between medical and non-medical papers, but adding other categories to make a total of four series.

Series I, Biographical material, 1915-1987, undated (#1-9ao, Vt-34.1), consists of articles about Hamilton; letters written by Hamilton to her family from Europe, awards (with relevant clippings); and papers (correspondence, including letters of appointment, speeches, notes, clippings) concerning four of her professional appointments and affiliations (arranged in chronological order by content): Harvard professorship, Hull House, Health Committee of the League of Nations, and Herbert Hoover's President's Research Committee on Social Trends. This series also contains a few items of uncertain date or authorship.

Series II, Political and civil liberties issues, 1921-1953, undated (#10-21), documents Hamilton's interests or involvement in such political issues as the Equal Rights Amendment, the position of the Catholic Church on conscientious objection to military service, United States diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, and the trials of Sacco and Vanzetti and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. The series consists mainly of correspondence, clippings, letters to the editor, speeches, and includes letters from Albert Einstein (#13, #21), Felix Frankfurter (#18, #20) and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (#21).

Series III, Speeches and writings, 1916-1965, undated (#22-27), contains published articles by Hamilton in non-medical subjects, dealing with political and social conditions in Germany in the 1920's and 1930's; autobiographical articles; correspondence about and reviews of her autobiography; and speeches on non-medical. subjects Hamilton gave at secondary schools. Hamilton's speeches and writings also appear in other series, with papers to which they pertain (e.g., re: Jane Addams's death, in #6 and Sacco and Vanzetti in #14).

Series IV, Medical and professional papers, 1909-1955, undated (#28-84), is the largest series in the collection, and contains correspondence, notes, speeches, articles and reviews of publications, by Hamilton and by others. For the most part, these materials have been arranged according to the chemicals whose structure or effects they describe. Papers concerning simple chemicals have usually been filed with papers dealing with their derivatives or compounds, while papers concerning chemicals that are chemically related and used in the same industry are filed together (e.g., #39-43 concern benzene, aniline and diphenyl, all used in the manufacture of dyes). In other cases, materials have been combined because they deal with a specific factory, company, industry, disease or group of people affected by a chemical or a labor practice. Some folders deal with specific controversies stemming from industry protests of Hamilton's statements concerning the effects of a material or chemical employed by the industry. With the exception of #81-84 (which deal with various substances and industries and have been placed at the end of the series), the series is arranged chronologically according to the first item in a folder or group of folders.


Following is a chronology of Alice Hamilton's life and work. For further information, see Notable American Women: The Modern Period and Hamilton's autobiography, Exploring the Dangerous Trades (Boston: Little, Brown, 1942). See also Hamilton family papers (MC 278), available on microfilm (M-24).

Born in New York city; raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana
Attends Miss Porter's School, Farmington, Connecticut
Earns M.D. from University of Michigan; interns at Northwestern Hospital for Women and Children, Minneapolis
Interns at New England Hospital for Women and Children, Boston
Works in bacteriology laboratory, University of Michigan
Does postgraduate study in bacteriology and pathology in Germany
Postgraduate study at Johns Hopkins Medical School, Baltimore
Appointed professor of pathology at the Woman's Medical School of Northwestern University
Becomes resident and active member of Hull House
Works as bacteriologist at Memorial Institute for Infectious Diseases, Chicago
Investigates typhoid epidemic and drug traffic in Chicago
Studies at Pasteur Institute, Paris
Studies industrial diseases on her own
Appointed to the Illinois Commission on Occupational Diseases
Appointed supervisor of the Illinois Commission on Occupational Diseases, concentrating on lead poisoning
Appointed special investigator for United States Department of Labor; investigates lead
Works for Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor; investigates rubber, munitions, other industries
Delegate to first International Congress of Women (The Hague)
Visits German-occupied Belgium
Travels to war capitals and discusses Congress's peace proposal
Appointed Assistant Professor of Industrial Medicine, Harvard Medical School (after 1928, Harvard School of Public Health), Harvard's first woman professor
Attends second International Congress of Women (Zurich)
Visits Germany to investigate postwar famine
Consultant to General Electric
Reviews industrial hygiene in U.S.S.R.
Serves two consecutive terms on Health Committee of League of Nations
Publishes Industrial Poisons in the United States
Member, Herbert Hoover's President's Research Committee on Social Trends
Travels in Nazi Germany
Publishes Industrial Toxicology
Retires from Harvard, moves to Hadlyme, Connecticut with sister Margaret and Clara Landsberg
Consultant to Labor Department's Division of Labor Standards
Conducts field study of conditions in viscose rayon industry for Division of Labor Standards
Publishes autobiography, Exploring the Dangerous Trades
President of National Consumers' League
Publishes revised edition of Industrial Toxicology with Harriet Hardy
Dies in Hadlyme at the age of 101


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. I. Biographical material, 1915-1987, undated (#1-9ao, Vt-34.1)
  2. II. Political and civil liberties issues, 1921-1953, undated (#10-21)
  3. III. Speeches and writings, 1916-1965, undated (#22-27)
  4. IV. Medical and professional papers, 1909-1955, undated (#28-84)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 53-28, 70-lll, 88-M35

These papers of Alice Hamilton were given to the Schlesinger Library in May 1953 and September 1970 by Alice Hamilton. The videotape was a gift of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in March 1988.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Hamilton family papers, 1818-1974 (MC 278); Hamilton family papers, 1879-1947 (84-M210); Hamilton family additional papers, 1850-1976 (83-M175); Letters to Effie B. Collins from Alice Hamilton, 1919-1960s (A/C712); and Shirley Camper Soman Collection on Alice Hamilton, 1865-1969 (A/S693).

Container list

  1. Box 1: 2-26
  2. Box 2: 27-41
  3. Box 3: 42-54
  4. Box 4: 55-77
  5. Box 5: 78-84

Processing Information

Processed: August 1983

By: Krystyna von Henneberg

Updated: April 2015

By: Anne Engelhart

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Hamilton, Alice, 1869-1970. Papers of Alice Hamilton, 1909-1987 (inclusive), 1909-1965 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
These papers were processed with a grant from Clara Goldberg Schiffer.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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