Relief for the Nation

Recognizing a Need

H.R. 12634, June 29, 1918/tiles/non-collection/M/Maternity-and-Infancy-Hygiene-Bill-nara.xml Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
About this record
During her first term in Congress, Jeannette Rankin introduced the first bill for federal assistance for maternity and infancy health care. Rankin brought her perspective as a trained social worker to her legislative interests. She also brought influence from her work on behalf of women’s suffrage. The bill provided funding for visiting nurses in rural areas, consultation centers for mothers and infants, hospital care for mothers, and instruction in maternal and infant hygiene.While the measure didn't pass Congress, the Sheppard–Towner Maternity and Infancy Protection Act (S. 1039), which grew out of the legislation Rankin introduced, passed in 1921. That the Sheppard–Towner Act passed so soon after women achieved national suffrage was not a coincidence. Women’s groups lobbied hard on its behalf, and legislators felt the pressure of the newly enfranchised groups. As one of the country's first pieces of social welfare legislation, Sheppard–Towner anticipated similar policies enacted during the administrations of President Franklin Roosevelt.


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