Alice Hamilton Critical Context - Essay

Madeleine P. Grant

Critical Context

Grant’s biography of Hamilton is an important link in describing the chain of influential American women of the twentieth century. As an early female medical school graduate, she was one of the first women to carry the teachings of modern medicine beyond a local practice and to use them to influence health care and conditions on a nationwide scale. The conditions under which she studied, worked, and taught were strictly enforced by academic and government officials. She battled for acceptance and recognition in the early days of her career from her employers and from the factory owners whose unhealthy working conditions she wanted to correct. In spite of those restrictions, she was able to make significant gains in the public health of industrial workers and to become part of the changing attitudes toward women in both academia and the work force.

This particular volume is not well known, but it should be included on biographical book lists because it not only describes the life of an interesting and influential American but also makes clear the narrow attitudes toward independent intellectual women earlier in the twentieth century. As a result of reading this biography, young adult readers will gain helpful insights into the problems that women have faced and the successes that they have achieved.