Alice Hamilton was born in New York City in 1869, and died in Hadlyme, Connecticut, in 1970.
In 1908, Hamilton's work at Hull House led to an appointment on the Illinois Commission on Occupational Diseases. The commission lacked any in-depth study on which to recommend legislation and Hamilton was asked to conduct a nine-month survey on the prevalence of industrial diseases in the state. Her survey combined laboratory findings with an extensive investigation of hospital records, inspections of industrial plants, and the testimonials from workers and their families. While she studied a number of dangers, she focused on lead poisoning and was able to connect the disease with specific occupations. Her seminal study, the [Illinois] Report of Commission on Occupational Diseases; To His Excellency Governor Charles S. Deneen (1911), demonstrated that the majority of Illinois' industrial workers faced life-threatening hazards at their jobs. The state responded by immediately passing a law that established occupational safety standards.
Considered the leading authority on industrial toxicology, Hamilton worked as a special investigation for the U.S. Bureau of Labor from 1911 to 1920. She also became an assistant professor of industrial medicine at Harvard from 1919 to 1935, and wrote the first American textbook on the subject, Industrial Poisons in the United States (1925).
Hamilton, A. (1943). Exploring the Dangerous Trades. Boston: Little, Brown.
Sicherman, B. (1984). Alice Hamilton: A Life in Letters. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
—— (1991). "Working It Out: Gender, Profession, and Reform in the Career of Alice Hamilton." In Gender, Class, Race, and Reform in the Progressive Era, eds. N. Frankel and N. S. Dye. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press.