Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Barbier, M. Kathryn

Committee Member

Marcus, Alan

Committee Member

Thompson, Courtney

Committee Member

Lavine, Matthew

Committee Member

Damms, Richard

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of History


This study examines major American maternal and children’s healthcare initiatives in the backdrop of international and national crises from 1917 to 1969. During these crises, maternal and child welfare reformers used the rhetoric of citizenship and democracy to garner support for new maternal and child healthcare policies at the national level. While the dissertation focuses on national policies, it also explores how state public health officials from Alabama, Mississippi, and New York implemented these programs and laws locally. The dissertation chapters study regional similarities and differences in maternal and child healthcare by highlighting how economy, culture, and politics influenced how national programs operated in different states. By utilizing White House Conference on Children and Youth Series sources, state public health records, and newspapers, this dissertation argues that by using rhetoric about protecting mothers, children, and American democracy, the Children’s Bureau (CB) members claimed and maintained control of maternal and child health care for over fifty years. CB leaders used World War I draft anxieties as a rallying call to reduce infant mortality and improve children’s health. In the following decades, maternal and children’s healthcare advocates met at the White House Conference on Children and Youth Series to discuss policies and influence legislation relating to maternal and child hygiene. The Sheppard-Towner Program, Title V or the Maternal and Children’s Health Section of the Social Security Act, and the Emergency Maternity and Infancy Care Program reflect policies debated at these White House conferences. By the 1950s, child welfare advocates associated mental health with a child’s overall health and the CB leaders and other child welfare reformers linked happy personalities to winning the Cold War. In the 1960s, the CB members and child welfare advocates’ attention shifted to focusing on low socio-economic mothers and children or children with intellectual disabilities. By 1969, the Children’s Bureau no longer managed national maternal and child healthcare programs and could not “safeguard the health of mothers and children.”



Children's Year||maternal healthcare||children's healthcare||Emergency Maternity and Infant Care||infant healthcare||Children's Bureau||Sheppard-Towner Act