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Group portrait of women activists supporting passage of the Sheppard-Towner bill, ca. 1920-1921

Front, from left: Mary Stewart, Lenna Yost, Maud Wood Park, Jeannette Rankin, Florence Kelley, Lida Hafford. Rear, from left: Dorothy Kirchwey Brown, Adah Bush, Betsy Edwards, Mrs. Raymond [Laura Puffer] Morgan, Mrs. Arthur [Florence V.] Watkins, Mrs. Milton P. [Katherine Chapin] Higgins, Amy Maher.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Group portrait of women activists supporting passage of the Sheppard-Towner bill

Protecting Mothers and Infants

In 1921 Congress passed the first federally funded social welfare program, the Sheppard-Towner Maternity and Infancy Protection Act. To reduce alarming rates of maternal and infant mortality, the act provided support to states for prenatal and infant health care. Women activists, using their newly won voting rights, urged Congress to pass the five-year program and renew it in 1926. But with challenges to its constitutionality in the Supreme Court and opposition from the American Medical Association, the act expired in 1929.