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Helen Putnam: Not So Squeamish

[ photo: Helen Putnam ]

Not So Squeamish

One of the nation's first gynecologists, Helen C. Putnam, class of 1878, planned a conference on infant mortality in 1909, which led to the founding of the American Association for the Study and Prevention of Infant Mortality and, at the same time, launched a reform movement - increasing the number of visiting nurses, introducing prenatal care, and establishing sanitation standards for milk collection. "At a meeting of the American Medical Association, a learned doctor who was to speak on social diseases declined to do so 'because there were ladies present.' Putnam rose to her feet, declared that she was not so squeamish, and proceeded to deliver an address on the subject. She was met with tumultuous applause, and her plea that social diseases be treated as ordinary contagious diseases, and be relieved of the social stigma attached to them, had much to do with further developments in that field of medical treatment."