Alice Hamilton was born today in 1869 and lived to be 101. She deserved a long, long life, that's for sure; she helped generations of industrial workers to hang onto theirs.
Born to upper-class Irish-American parents, Alice was the first of five children, one of whom was future Greek mythology icon Edith Hamilton (1867-1963). Family life in the Fort Wayne, Indiana, home must have been really something for Alice and Edith, who learned French, Latin, and German as youngsters, mainly from parents Montgomery and Gertrude Pond Hamilton. They probably sat around the supper table discussing philosophy in a foreign language. Here's a flashback to a dinner in my family 5o years ago.
How right she was.
But back to Alice Hamilton. When they were old enough, Alice, Edith, and the other two daughters in the family went to Miss Porter's School in Farmington, Connecticut, after which Edith went to Bryn Mawr, Alice to medical studies in Michigan, and both to Germany for more school.
Alice went on to become a pathologist and a professor at Harvard--the first woman on their faculty. This so incensed the rest of the faculty that they made a rule that she couldn't go to the Faculty Club nor could she get free football tickets. This is true. I'm sure that Alice and her family did the upper-crust equivalent of holding their stomachs and slapping their knees, rolling on the floor laughing about those football tickets. How lame a gesture was that? A bunch of supposedly exceptional men, far inferior to Alice, sullenly sulking around a conference table saying "We'll show HER. We won't let her have football tickets. So there!"
What was less lame is that during the first 26 years Alice taught in the School of Public Health at Harvard, female students were not allowed to enroll in the School of Public Health.
Prior to Harvard, Alice spent 22 years at Hull House, the settlement house in Chicago founded by social reformer Jane Addams. While there, Alice became an expert in the occupational illnesses that plagued the poor residents of the area. In 1908, Alice was appointed to the Illinois Commission on Occupational Diseases, went on to be appointed a special investigator with the United States Bureau of Labor, and was responsible for the establishment of some of the first laws regarding job safety.
All in all, Alice led a life worthy of first-class postage. It says a lot about this country that in 1995, when Alice scored the 55-cent stamp, first-class went to, among others, Li'l Abner and Dick Tracy.
Saints celebrating feast days today include Saint Anne Line (patron saint of childless people, converts, and widows), Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrow (Abruzzi region of Italy, clerics, students, young people in general), and Saint Mark Barkworth, among several others.
Celebrating birthdays today: Howard Hesseman (1940, Salem, OR), Elizabeth Taylor (1932, London), Joanne Woodward (1930, Thomasville, GA).