Historic Alice Hamilton is Positively Fort Wayne

Positively Fort Wayne

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — As Fort Wayne’s most prominent family at the end of the 1800’s, the Hamiltons were taught to improve the world through their actions.

They must have done a pretty good job, as 100 years later, the city built three statues in their honor at the center of Headwaters Park.

Alice Hamilton made her mark as America’s first industrial toxicology expert at a time when industrial advances were far ahead of safety concerns.

“She’s often referred to by people within the profession as the mother of OSHA,” says Matthew Ringenberg, the coauthor of “The Education of Alice Hamilton: From Fort Wayne to Harvard.”

“OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) wasn’t created until three months after she died but it wouldn’t have existed in that form or nearly that soon without her efforts,” he says.

Hamilton did much more in her 101 years. “She became a physician, which was pretty unusual for a woman at the time. She was the first woman to teach at Harvard University, largely because there were no men who had an expertise in that (occupational toxicology) area. She was a peace delegate to Europe twice during World War One. She was an advocate for immigrant rights. In fact, she wrote her final letter for someone when she was 98 years old. She lived to be 101, which takes us to 1970, which is meaningful for me because our lives overlapped a little bit,” Ringenberg adds.

The Hamilton family made local impacts, too. They owned the land where the first professional baseball game was played. They donated land to build Fort Wayne Central High School, which is now Anthis Career Center. From their massive book collection, they supplied the city’s first reading room, which evolved into the Allen County Public Library. They were at the forefront of the abolitionist and suffragette movements.

Author Ringenberg, along with his coauthor father, William Ringenberg, were in Fort Wayne for a talk at the History Center, 302 East Berry, where their book is available for purchase.

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