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A report by American Women's Hospitals covering their efforts to establish a public health program in Whitley County, Kentucky. (From DHT doc: Report describing the American Women’s Hospitals’ (AWH) public health and health education activities in Whitley County, Kentucky during the Depression. Typescript illustrated with pasted-in photographs.)

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The American Women’s Hospitals at Home: Public Health in Depression-Era Appalachia

The American Women’s Hospitals (AWH) was founded by women physicians in 1918 to provide medical care to the people of war-torn France during World War I. AWH subsequently established hospitals in other parts of Europe and Western Asia, continuing to provide medical care to devastated populations after the wars and conflicts had officially ended. In the 1930s, the AWH established itself in the rural, mountainous, Southern Highlands of the United States, in a region known today as Appalachia. Even before the Depression, Appalachia was a relatively impoverished region, and was geographically isolated with few roads or means of transportation in or out of the area. The economic crisis of the Great Depression only increased the severity of the region’s existing poverty and lack of quality education and healthcare. The AWH established a mobile health clinic, and launched a wide-ranging/multi-faceted public health and health education program to combat the region’s rampant health problems, which included malnutrition-related diseases (such as Pellagra) and highly contagious and potentially fatal diseases such as typhoid, tuberculosis, and diphtheria.

The AWH met the geographic and public health challenges of Appalachia through a holistic approach that went beyond distributing medicines and performing mass vaccinations and inoculations. The AWH, with the help of the local community, distributed educational information, in public places, presented educational lectures, built clean and safe latrines and wells, promoted maternal health, and launched an aggressive nutrition education campaign. This report reflects the significant impact of the AWH’s varied activities in just one year in Whitley County.

Creator: American Women's Hospitals

Language: english

Item Number: a144_215

Pages: 6

Size: 22 x 33 cm

Physical Collection: Records of American Women`s Hospitals 1917-1982 (ACC-144), ACC-144

Finding Aid:

Link to OPAC Record:

Cite this source: Title of document, date. The American Women’s Hospitals at Home: Public Health in Depression-Era Appalachia. Doctor or Doctress?: Explore American history through the eyes of women physicians. The Legacy Center, Drexel University College of Medicine Archives & Special Collections. Philadelphia, PA. Date of access.

American Women's Hospitals





Rural health services

Child welfare

Whitley (Ky.)

Appalachian Region, Southern