NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Edith M. Baker (1885-1978)
Edith M. Baker was the first medical consultant for the U.S. Children's Bureau. She was a leader in medical social work as well as in the American Association of Medical Social Workers, for which she served as president from 1929 to 1931, and as the first chairman of the American Association of Medical Social Workers Committee on medical care which was assigned to work with federal agencies to address social problems in health programs. As chairman, she visited the directors of the new health and welfare programs that were a part of the Social Security Acts of the mid-1930s. Her aim was to promote the inclusion of social work staff at high levels.
As a result of Baker's visits to the U.S. Children's Bureau, the Chief, Dr. Martha Elliot, challenged Ms. Baker to take leave from her position in St. Louis and come to the Children's Bureau for six months to put recommendations into effect. Edith Baker accepted this challenge and did not leave the U.S. Children's Bureau until mandatory retirement at age 70, which occurred in the early 1960's.
Edith Baker was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She earned a certificate from Simmons College School of Social Work in Boston and did her field work placement at Massachusetts General Hospital where she later was employed as a social worker. She then became the director of the Social Services Department at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis, where she stayed until joining the U.S. Children's Bureau.
Following her position with the U.S. Children's Bureau, she became Chief Social Worker in the maternal and child health services at the District of Columbia Health Department. She lived in the District of Columbia until her death. Baker's personal papers and other materials about her life are available at the Schlesinger Library on Women in American, Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts.