Tag Archives: United States

[Photos] B&W Historic Photos of Public #Breastfeeding in the US #WBW2014

Long ago in Internet years (about seven years ago) I was a staunch breastfeeding advocate and researcher (still am!). Back then I wanted to get to the bottom of why nursing in public was such a big issue in the United States. So, I started digging in the photo archives of the Library of Congress for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of hours and discovered through black and white, historic photos that breastfeeding in public hasn’t always been a problem in the United States.

Last week I was reminded about all of my research when during the #EveryNewborn Twitter chat Kenyan Social Good Moms correspondent Maryanne Waweru Wanyama mentioned that Kenyans do not have a problem with public nursing. It’s true. The many, many times I have been to Africa I have never witnessed a problem with women breastfeeding in public; no disgusted glares or reprimands. And yet, here in the United States public breastfeeding always draws controversy.

For World Breastfeeding Week I wanted to revisit the historic photos I found years ago in the Library of Congress archives that show nursing in public hasn’t always been an issue like it is today.  When public perception about breastfeeding changed in the United States, I still don’t know. It’s definitely an issue worth pursuing.

a) Part of Social Hour audience at Shafter Camp (handwritten on reverse); b) Todd’s favorite picture of an “Okie Family” in Shafter F.S.A. Camp. Nursing babies was the usual thing at camp “Socials.” (typed and attached to reverse)
Part of Social Hour audience at Shafter Camp (handwritten on reverse) b) Todd’s favorite picture of an “Okie Family” in Shafter F.S.A. Camp. Nursing babies was the usual thing at camp “Socials.” (typed and attached to reverse)


Drought refugees from Oklahoma camping by the roadside. They hope to work in the cotton fields. There are seven in family. Blythe, California. LC-USF34- 009666-E
Drought refugees from Oklahoma camping by the roadside. They hope to work in the cotton fields. There are seven in family. Blythe, California. LC-USF34- 009666-E.  Lange, Dorothea, photographer
Colored mother and child, Little Rock, Arkansas. Note: I am keeping captions as they appear in the Library of Congress archives. LC-USF3301-006023-M5; Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969, photographer
Colored sharecropper family living in Little Rock, Arkansas (same woman as above). Note: I am keeping captions as they appear in the Library of Congress archives. LC-USF33- 006023-M4; Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969, photographer
Colored sharecropper family living in Little Rock, Arkansas (same woman as above)
This is a mother who is traveling from Louisville, Kentucky to Memphis, Tennessee on a Greyhound bus. Here, she is waiting in the Chattanooga bus terminal and breastfeeding in public in September 1943. Photographer: Esther Bubley, a pioneer in female photojournalism, who chronicled people’s daily lives for the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Collection (FSA-OWI).


Coal miner's wife and child. Pursglove, West Virginia. Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910-1990, photographer. LC-USF34- 050320-E
Coal miner’s wife and child. Pursglove, West Virginia. Wolcott, Marion Post, 1910-1990, photographer; LC-USF34- 050320-E


Scene in New Orleans, Louisiana; Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969, photographer; LC-USF33- 006099-M2
Scene in New Orleans, Louisiana; Shahn, Ben, 1898-1969,  LC-USF33- 006099-M2


Location:Greenville, MS, US Date taken:1937 Photographer:Alfred Eisenstaedt Time Life Magazine
Location: Greenville, MS, US
Date taken: 1937
Photographer: Alfred Eisenstaedt
Time Life Magazine


Migrant mother and child in tent home. Harlingen, Texas; Lee, Russell, 1903-1986, photographer; LC-USF34- 032200-D
Migrant mother and child in tent home. Harlingen, Texas; Lee, Russell, 1903-1986, photographer; LC-USF34- 032200-D

This post will be updated from time to time. There are more photos I have found from the archives and I will share them here. 

Also, see a recent post I wrote: [Photos in Black and White] Historical Look at Child and Newborn Health in the US.


Why Congress Needs to Pass the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2014

The United States has a maternal mortality problem. For the past 25 years the rate of maternal mortality has increased dramatically in America. In fact, the United States is one of eight countries including Greece, Afghanistan and sub-Saharan African countries where the number of mothers who die during childbirth is on the rise. Now each year, on average, 800 American women will lose their lives giving birth. Last year 1200 women died during childbirth in the United States, up 500 deaths since 2005.

To put this crisis into perspective globally, the United States has double the maternal mortality rate of Canada and three times the maternal mortality rate of France. When comparing maternal mortality rates with the Nordic countries it just becomes even more embarrassing.  What’s worse, the United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any industrialized country in the world.

See rates and statistics in Trends in Maternal Mortality: 1990 – 2013

What is especially disheartening about these statistics is doctors and researchers are baffled about why many mothers are dying during childbirth when they are afforded access to the best medical care in the world. Some point to the increased rates of diabetes and hypertension in overweight or obese women as reasons for the increased rate of maternal mortality. Others blame healthcare disparities and the rate of older women who are now having children. The problem is there is no definitive science on why more mothers are dying in the United States than any other developed country in the world.

What experts do know is that African-American women are three times more likely to die during childbirth. A recent study conducted by the California Department of Health found that the maternal mortality rate for African-American women was 46 per 1000,000 live births. For Asian and Caucasian women, the rate was 13 per 100,000 live births between 2003 – 2008.

“African-American people generally have worse health outcomes than Caucasian people…but not to this degree, not four-fold,” said Conrad Chao, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of california, San Francisco.

Timoria McQueenTimoria McQueen, an African-American woman, suffered a postpartum hemorrhage after the birth of her daughter. She subsequently underwent a three-hour life-saving surgery to survive. Now, McQueen is a staunch maternal health advocate pushing to amend Health and Human Services’ Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant Program with the proposed Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2014 (H.R.4216).

The Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2014, if passed, would require:

(1) mandatory reporting to the state department of health by health care providers and other entities of pregnancy-related deaths;

(2) establishment of a state maternal mortality review committee on pregnancy-related deaths occurring within such state;

(3) implementation and use of the comprehensive case abstraction form by such committee to preserve the uniformity of the information collected;

(4) annual public disclosure of committee findings; and

(5) collect, analyze, and report to the Secretary cases of maternal morbidity

The Act was introduced in the House in March 2014, but has stalled in Congress since.

How You Can Raise Your Voice

To find out how to contact your local Congress person and support H.R.4216: The Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2014 click here

Maternal Mortality in the US: The Numbers May Surprise You

When we talk about sky-high maternal mortality rates we tend to look more closely at low-income countries like Afghanistan, Chad and Somalia that have the world’s highest maternal mortality rates in the world according to the World Bank. And, of course, sub-Saharan African countries need to desperately bring their numbers down. But when you look at rich, developed countries the United States has the highest maternal mortality rates among them and the rates are not declining. In fact, maternal mortality rates in the United States have doubled over the past 25 years. African-American women are 3x more likely to die during childbirth in the United States. And, Caucasian women are more likely to die during childbirth than women in 24 other industrialized countries. 21 mothers die per 100,000 live births in the United States. Compare that to Greece (3), Finland (5), and even the United Kingdom (12) deaths per 100,000 live births.

This year as we report on maternal mortality we will also include the United States in our news reporting because the numbers are high, increasing, and are baffling researchers and doctors. They do not know concretely what is causing the doubled maternal mortality ratios although they suspect obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, health care disparities, and older mothers may be causing the steady spike in numbers in the United States.

According to Amnesty International the five main reasons women die in childbirth in the United States are:

  1. Embolism 20% – A blood clot that blocks an essential blood vessel, for example in the lungs
  2. Hemorrhage 17% – Severe blood loss
  3. Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia 16% – Disorders associated with excessively high blood pressure
  4. Infection 13%
  5. Cardiomyopathy 8% – Heart muscle disease

And, according to Merck for Mothers, a woman nearly dies in childbirth every two minutes, that is more than 50,000 women annually. See infographic. Around 650 women die during childbirth or shortly thereafter based on numbers from the CDC.

UNited States

As we continue to report on maternal mortality around the world where the rates are in the hundreds per 100,000 we will not forget about the mothers who are also dying here in the United States, a country that spends the most in the world on health care.

Photo: Fotolio

An Update on Central African Republic’s Growing Violence, Humanitarian Response

Since I last wrote about the growing violence in the Central African Republic, things have made a marked turn for the worse. Even with a reported 7600 French (1600) and African Union (6000) troops on the ground and with United States’ air support inter-religious violence between Muslims and Christians has escalated into all-out militia and vigilante warfare. Children as young as eleven are picking up makeshift weapons and machetes to defend themselves against their brothers who do not share their religious beliefs. Torture and amputations have also been reported.

In one week 600 people have been killed according to the United Nations. UNHCR, which was recently called out for a lack of humanitarian support by Doctors Without Border, has made a plea of its own to the leaders of the Central African Republic: to give them access to aid unarmed citizens.

A reported 40,000 people are taking refuge at Bangui’s airport where there is absolutely no sanitation even though some youth have been digging holes where people can relieve themselves.

It is widely expected that French and AU forces can ultimately put an end to the violence that has already killed so many. Conventional wisdom says it will take far more than one week.

New Crop of Grants Go to Improving Libraries in Developing Countries

In the 1980s and 1990s libraries in the developing world suffered greatly from a lack of funding. Additional funding did not pick up until the latter part of the 1990s and now there is a renewed effort to bolster access to information in developing countries through even more funding. Why? In 2013, for example, the entire African continent put out a total of 27,000 academic papers according to a recent report published in August, Library Value in the Developing World. That is equivalent to the total number put out by the Netherlands alone. There is no question, then, that libraries in developing countries are in desperate need of a total technology overhaul where students, academics, and researchers have greater access to online information.

With the new push towards online journals, developing countries are still playing catch up with the rest of the world. Although access to universal education is improving, improvements are slow. Access to high-speed Internet is not ubiquitous across the board in the developing world and its reliability is often brought into question.

The aforementioned study reports that developing countries fail to fund libraries in the amounts that will ensure significant improvements. We could argue that that is the same here in the States, but that’s a discussion for another day. In regards to developing countries, low funding is why private foundations and NGOs are stepping in to fill the gaps. The Elsevier Foundation just announced the winners of new grants that are specifically earmarked to improve libraries in developing countries. Some of the grants are going to American institutions that are working with libraries abroad to better improve to information while some of the grants are going directly to libraries abroad.

The funded programs along with their links are below. To learn about applying next year visit www.elsevierfoundation.org/innovative-libraries/how-to-apply

Increased International Travel Spurs U.S. Malaria Cases

I travel to many malaria endemic countries and to be completely honest I do not take my malaria medicine as I should. They tend to make me ill, so I just roll the dice and hope for the best. That might not be the smartest thing to do, especially knowing that there has been a marked increase in the number of malaria cases reported in the United States due to increased international travel. In fact, the number of malaria cases in the United States is the highest in forty years.

The CDC says that in 2011 1,925 malaria cases were reported in the United States. That is the highest number since 1971. The number is also 48% higher than 2008. The CDC says that only about half of international travelers routinely take their antimalarials. I am keenly in the other half of those travelers. I do take precautions, however, by using a bed net (even though many I’ve slept under have holes) and I try not to go out at night or I wear long sleeves and pants.

“The CDC provides actual maps and very good recommendations for travelers,” said Kristin Michel, an associate professor of biology at Kansas State University who studies the Anopheles gambiae s.s. mosquitoes, the species most responsible for malaria transmission in Africa. “Anybody who travels outside of the U.S. into potentially endemic area needs to consult the CDC website and/or their physician and ensure that they have the right prophylaxis.”

All it takes is one bite and I could contract malaria. I know. Although malaria cases are decreasing in malaria endemic countries like Zambia and Tanzania where children under the age of five are most vulnerable, the number of Americans who are coming home with malaria, as aforementioned, is increasing. Five people died in the United States from malaria in 2011. Two-thirds of the malaria cases were imported from Africa.

CDC - Malaria Map

“The CDC provides actual maps and very good recommendations for travelers,” said Michel. “Anybody who travels outside of the U.S. into potentially endemic area needs to consult the CDC website and/or their physician and ensure that they have the right prophylaxis.”

Why We Need World Prematurity Day

One of the world’s greatest tragedies is when babies are born too soon. Every day a mother around the world experiences the heartache of delivering her baby before 37 weeks gestation whether she is walking on foot to a rural health facility in Bangladesh, delivering her baby in a hut in the lush countryside of Kenya, or rushing in a yellow cab to an award-winning hospital in New York City. All three of these mothers – seemingly a world away and cultures apart– are bound by the ubiquity of premature birth. In fact, 15 million babies are born premature each year. That is slightly more than the total population of Cambodia, if you can imagine that.

Premature birth does not choose its favorites and knows no borders. This is why, for women around the world, there is a singular day designated to honor them and pledges to raise awareness and solutions about the global problem of premature births.

Celebrated on November 17 each year, the third annual World Prematurity Day shines a much-needed spotlight on premature births to improve the birth circumstances for millions of women around the world who lose their babies or deliver babies who will experience severe disabilities or slow growth because they were not born full-term.

Premature deaths are the second largest killer of children under the age of five only resigning the backseat to pneumonia which the World Health Organization says takes the lives of 1.3 million children annually. A staggering 1.1 million children die from being born prematurely every year. Without consistent, global intervention premature births have the unfortunate potential of rapidly become the number one killer of children in the world, eclipsing pneumonia.

The global neonatal mortality rate is alarmingly high and yet data can never capture the true loss experienced by mothers and families. According to the March of Dimes a preterm baby dies every 30 seconds, but the loss is deeply personal. You can read stories about premature births on the World Prematurity Day Facebook page or share your own. And even for those babies who do not die from being born preterm their development is typically hampered like that of Allison’s son, a little boy I wrote about last year who is experiencing developmental delays because he was born at 26 weeks.

Why are babies born prematurely?

There are still many scientific question marks surrounding the causes of premature births. Some reasons include infections, diabetes, high blood pressure and genetics according to the groundbreaking report Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Births that was published in May by Save the Children, the March of Dimes, the World Health Organization and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health.  These aforementioned causes do not explain all reasons for premature births, to be sure. That is why additional funding and country commitments have been pledged to provide more detailed data in order to determine the root causes of premature births in order to prevent them.

While South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa see 60 percent of preterm births each year surprisingly the United States also has a high rate of preterm births although it is dropping significantly. The preterm birth rate in the US is at a decade low, 11.7 percent, according to the March of Dimes 2013 Premature Birth Report Card. While the number is decreasing the United States still received a “C” for its prematurity rate.

This World Prematurity Day stand in solidarity with those around the world who have been directly affected by a preterm birth and those who fight endlessly to make sure every  baby is born full-term.

Visit www.facebook.com/WorldPrematurityDay to get involved.

This article originally ran on Impatient Optimists

Our Newest Partnerships: Oxfam America and Kangu

Oxfam AmericaWe are always thrilled to work with some of the best NGOs and nonprofits in the world. Today, we are announcing our newest partnerships with Oxfam America and Kangu. We look forward to working with Kangu to spread the word about maternal health and healthy pregnancies in developing countries in both Africa and Asia. And we look forward to working with Oxfam America to raise awareness about food security, poverty, hunger and injustice.

Join us in welcoming them to our community of committed moms around the world who believe in using their voices as catalysts for good.


David Winder, CEO of WaterAid America, Recognizes Moms for Awareness Raising of Water Issues

Thank you David Winder, CEO of WaterAid America, for recognizing Mom Bloggers for Social Good in your latest piece for the Huffington Post!

Here in the United States, Millennials and moms alike are making their mark on-line by raising money and awareness about an incredible project to build over 100 toilets and 150 water taps in 31 schools across Madagascar this summer, while students as young as second grade are organizing walks for water that help to fund rainwater collection systems and student-led Hygiene Brigades at schools in Nicaragua.

David Winder: Calling All Young People: The Water Crisis Needs You

A Creative Way to Donate Much-Needed School Supplies

Rossetti_Ladies_for_web_largeEven though it’s summer vacation for most kids across the country the new school season will roll around  before we know it. That means millions of schoolchildren will attend their first day of school without the school supplies they need to excel. One Chicago-based company has devised a creative way to change that scenario for schoolkids in Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland.

3CWear, a for profit company, partners with fine artists around the world to create designs specifically for their tees. For every tee you buy a school supplies kit is gifted to a child in need. 3CWear’s social enterprise mission is two-fold: promote talented artists and do good. Currently 3CWear’s catalog of tees ranges in price from $15 (sale price) to $24, a reasonable cost for a full priced t-shirt. Most of the collections are highlighted by a video feature of the artist who created and donated the design to 3CWear. Through August 12, 2013 limited edition tees by Italian artist Brigitta Rosetti will be on sale at www.3cwear.com.

Launched by a husband and wife team 3CWear is poised to be a leader in the buy one, give one industry due to its emphasis on the arts, design, fashion, and giving back.

“Last year my husband and I began an online based clothing store with a social commitment of giving school supplies to children in need in the United States,” said A Yanina Gomez, CEO of 3CWear and mother of two, via email. “We partner with established artists who donate a design exclusively for 3cWear. These designs are available for a limited time. For every top we sell, we (3c + customer) give a school supply kit to a local child in need. We REALLY care about the arts and education in our nation and want to ensure that our children go to school fully prepared to be actively engaged in the learning experience.”

If you would like to buy a tee and gift a child with much-needed school supplies you can use promo code “giving”. Visit 3CWear.com to shop for a good cause.