Sara Josephine Baker (1873 –1945)


Sara Josephine Baker, a feminist and doctor, who as a physician overcame gender discrimination and contributed significantly to child and maternal health in the United States. This essay provides a concise account of her life and her contributions to medical field.

Life and Contribution

Dr. Baker was born as the third daughter to a lawyer; it was because of financial hardship faced by her family that she decided to become a doctor instead of attending Vassar College and the discouragement from her family and friends only toughened her resolution. After receiving her M.D., she entered into private practice but she also worked as a medical inspector, where she started working with immigrant families and in public health. Her experiment in child hygiene which led to reduction of child mortality rate resulted in establishment of Division (later Bureau) of Child Hygiene in the health department where she was appointed as the director.

Dr.Baker is a pioneer in public health education as she devised means to give medical knowledge to people who needed them and as a well-known authority in the field she spoke widely throughout the U.S. She has also written many journal and newspaper articles on the issue and also published books on the subject. It can be said that she was able to achieve extraordinary advances in preventive medicine and child hygiene. Also, Baker through her work showed that in addition to hygiene and food children also needed love to survive.

There is not much known about her personal life except what she has written herself, as all her personal documents were destroyed before her death. However, as a female physician practicing in the early 1900 she faced gender discrimination.


Despite the fact that she has contributed so much to public health Baker’s work is little recognized today, the reason for this neglect may be political and also because after she died in 1945 many innovations to technology occurred. Therefore, today rather than being well-known as a pioneer in child hygiene, she is merely known for her work in the immigrant communities in reducing child mortality rate however that was just a part of her contribution to the public health field.

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