Letter from Mary McLeod Bethune to Representative James S. Parker, January 28, 1926
In 1926 Congress considered whether to renew the Sheppard-Towner Act. Mary McLeod Bethune, president of the National Association of Colored Women, wrote to the Chairman of the Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee, a panel with jurisdiction over the bill, voicing her organization’s support for a five-year extension. Congress renewed funding until 1929 but then let the program lapse.
Our organization represents a membership of over 100,000 women… We have been authorized to support the proposal that the time of the Shephard-Towner [sic] act be extended…
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
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.