Saturday, January 18, 2014

Who Was Dr. Josephine Baker?

No, not  the 'bad' Josephine Baker who was famous for immodesty. I mean the life-changing, life-saving Dr. Sarah Josephine Baker of the early twentieth century.
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photo credit: corbis
It was in the 1890's that Josephine  Baker decided to become a doctor. She attented Emily Blackwell' s college. Emily Blackwell was the sister of the famous, first woman doctor Elizabeth Blackwell. After Josephine earned her medical decree, she opened her own practice in New York City, even treating some famous child stars of the day.
But around 1912(the same year the Titanic sank) she decided she wanted to work exclusively with the poor. She'd had experience with them before- the tement residents who slunk in and out of her office, ashamed at their inability to pay. So she became a health inspector, determined to help the  poor.


She began work in the Lower East Side- an area notorious for its awful, slum-like  living conditions. Here children drank beer from milk bottles, played in gutters, and as many as 6,000 people lived in one square mile. Dr. Baker began going door to door, providing free medical exams and care, helping deliver babies and caring for children and newborns. She organized teams of nurses who taught basic hygiene information.

The other health inspectors didn't like her. They often forged records so they could avoid examining poorer patients. They were afraid they would catch  diseases, and they disliked visiting the foul-smelling tenements.

During Dr. Baker's long and colorful career, she helped to catch  'Typhoid Mary', the infamous woman who spread typhoid throughout NewYork, killing many.  Dr. Baker was instrumental in improving healthcare for lower class children and newborns , and is a hero to many for her work.

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