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Susan Suraci - Artist, Alice Hamilton - Everyday Star (A-9)

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Susan Suraci
Professional Artist

Alice Hamilton
Everyday Star

Alice Hamilton (1869-1970) was an early pioneer in the field of occupational health and safety.  She and her three sisters were raised in Fort Wayne and initially schooled by their intellectually charged and rather well-to-do parents.

Hamilton pursued a degree in medicine (University of Michigan) at a time when it was difficult for a woman to do so.  A progressive on the issue of social reform, Hamilton chose to live in Jane Addams’ Hull House where she was exposed to and quick to recognize the tragic impact of dangerous working conditions on Chicago working-class families.  She was moved by their plight to use her recently acquired skills in pathology and bacteriology gained through study abroad in Germany and at Johns Hopkins University to try and pinpoint the most lethal hazards in the industrial workplace.  Her successful efforts, especially the campaign to reduce exposure to lead in factories, gained her many accolades and requests for her to participate in further investigations, first in 1910 for the State of Illionois, then at the national level for the US Department of Commerce (1911), the Department of Labor (1935), and globally at the invitation of the League of Nations (forerunner of the United Nations) in 1924.

This last honor came on the heels of an invitation to teach Industrial Medicine at Harvard University in 1919 making her the first woman on the Harvard faculty.
Ever concerned for the welfare of her fellowman, Hamilton considered herself a pacifist and advocate for social justice, fairness, and tolerance.  She continued as a persistent activist until her death at the age of 101.

Today Alice Hamilton’s legacy continues to protect workers and visitors in all industries through existing stringent federal and state occupational safety regulations, now overseen by US Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

I have chosen to represent her contribution to mankind with hearts, representing her care and concern for workers.  We owe to Hamilton the widespread use of safety symbols and a few are contained within the hearts (the now-familiar symbols for bio and radioactive hazards and the lead-free symbol).  I include the peace symbol, and the symbol for equal rights/equal opportunity between men and women as these were salient issues for Hamilton.  Hull House represents her social reform efforts and the globe stands for the worldwide reach of her research into occupational health.