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Literatim |

Exploring the Dangerous Trades With Dr Alice Hamilton

Howard Markel, MD, PhD
JAMA. 2007;298(23):2802-2804. doi:10.1001/jama.298.23.2802.
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Exploring the Dangerous Trades: The Autobiography of Alice Hamilton, M.D.
By Alice Hamilton.
433 pp.
Boston, MA, Atlantic Monthly Press/Little Brown, 1943.

A few months after the Armistice was signed and World War I came to a screeching halt, a 50-year-old physician named Alice Hamilton received an assignment from the US Department of Labor. She was to investigate the working conditions of copper miners in Arizona, many of whom had sustained various hand and finger injuries from the overuse of air jackhammers, a problem she had already studied in stonecutters.1 She was also to assess the miners' exposure to poisonous arseniureted hydrogen gases. Predictably, in an era when profit was paramount and the health of those who toiled in the industrial beehive a distant second, she was not warmly welcomed by the men who controlled the mining camps.

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In 1919, Hamilton became the first woman appointed to the staff at Harvard. A lifelong political and social activist, she died on September 22, 1970, at age 101 years. Photograph reprinted by courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.



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