It’s National Women’s History Month

March 26th, 2013

Did You Know?:
Honoring Maternal & Child Health Trailblazers During National Women’s History Month


During National Women’s History Month 2013, a series of “Did You Know?” posts have been the buzz of our Facebook and Twitter communities.  We’ve enjoyed celebrating the trailblazing achievements of women whose work has transformed maternal and child health in the United States.

Here, we share just a few favorite spotlights from our social media celebration. In the comments beneath this post, join the conversation by telling us about YOUR favorite woman whose contributions have paved the way for healthier moms, babies, and families!


“Apgar” is not an acronym. It’s the name of maternal-child health champion Dr. Virginia Apgar, who in 1952 developed the Apgar Score, by which newborn health is still measured. This simple diagnostic helps determine whether a newborn needs special medical attention, and has saved thousands of lives. A specialist in maternal anesthesiology, Dr. Apgar’s work helped to change the way women (and their babies) are treated during childbirth.




Pediatric nephrologist and public health practitioner Antonia Novello, the first woman and first Hispanic to become Surgeon General of the U.S. (1990-1993), used her position to alleviate suffering for women, children, and for the most disempowered populations in our society. She focused attention and resources on women with AIDS and on neonatal transmission of HIV; raised the profile of domestic violence among medical professionals; and increased awareness of alcohol abuse.


Helen Brooke Taussig (1898-1986) founded the field of pediatric cardiology and developed the concept for a procedure that would extend the lives of children born with Tetrology of Fallot (“blue baby syndrome”), leading to the procedure known as the Blalock-Taussig Shunt. In the 1960s Dr. Taussig testified before Congress on the drug thalidomide’s damaging effect on newborns, leading to the banning of thalidomide in the U.S. She became the first female president of the American Heart Association.


Annie Dodge Wauneka (1910-1997), tribal leader of the Navajo Nation and public health activist, hosted a radio broadcast in the Navajo language to educate about how modern medicine could improve care for pregnant women and infants, raised awareness of and improved care for alcoholism, worked to eradicate tuberculosis among the Navajo and nationwide, and wrote a dictionary translating English words for modern medical terms and techniques into Navajo. She served on the advisory boards of the U.S. Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service, and in 1963 became the first Native American to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Former First Lady of Arkansas Betty Bumpers led an immunization program in her state that became a national model. In 1977, she worked with the Carter administration to create the first federal initiative in comprehensive childhood immunization, at a time when just 17 states required immunization by school age. In response to the 1989-1991 measles epidemic across the country, Ms. Bumpers co-founded Every Child by Two with Rosalynn Carter, promoting early childhood immunization and supporting the development of state immunization registries.


Pediatrician Ethel Collins Dunham (1883-1969) set the national standard of care for the treatment of premature infants. At the turn of the 20th century, some U.S. cities were experiencing a 30% infant mortality rate. Dunham was the first to recognize the association between prematurity and infant death — and her text, Premature Infants: A Manual for Physicians, became a touchstone.