Julia Clifford Lathrop was an activist and social reformer in the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries and the first chief of the United States Children’s Bureau. In that capacity, she conducted demographic studies to identify links between socioeconomic factors and infant mortality rates. Lathrop mobilized the effort to increase birth registration and designed programs and publications to promote infant and maternal health throughout the US.
Prenatal Care is an educational booklet written by Mary Mills West of the US Children’s Bureau and published by the US Government Printing Office in 1913. The Bureau distributed West’s booklets in response to their field studies on infant mortality, which found that lack of access to accurate health and hygiene information put women and infants at greater than normal risk of death or disease.
In November 1921, US Congress passed the National Maternity and Infancy Protection Act, also called the Sheppard-Towner Act. The Act provided federal funds to states to establish programs to educate people about prenatal health and infant welfare. Advocates argued that it would curb the high infant mortality rate in the US.