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1921: Jersey City Under Commission Government
A Book of Achievement

Saving The Most Valuable Thing In The World

This Web version:

URING the first year of Commission Government when Mark M. Fagan was Mayor, Dr. M. W. O'Gorman interested him in an effort to save the great number of infants and children who die each year in this city through ignorance of child care and lack of mothercraft. The result was the establishment in a small room in the Cole Street Bath House of an Infant Welfare Station. The staff consisted of Dr. M. W. O'Gorman and one public health nurse, Miss Alice Wilson.

The work was carried on in a limited way until Frank Hague became Mayor.

At one of the elections Dr. O'Gorman ran as a candidate for Commissioner against Mayor Frank Hague, Under the usual political custom Dr, O'Gorman would have been removed and his place given to some one friendly to the successful candidates. Mayor Frank Hague, however, did nothing of the kind. He investigated the work of the Infant Welfare Stations and became impressed at once with its importance and the ability of Dr. O'Gorman. He retained him as chief of this division, increased his salary and began to develop its facilities in a broad way. His interest in the solution of this problem was so essentially practical that there are now, due to his efforts, a total of ten welfare stations located in sections of this city where a survey determined the greatest need.

Mothers' Institute.

As a crowning accomplishment of his endeavors to make the work of this division more intensive and beneficial came the opening of the doors of the Mothers' Institute on January 28, 1920, located at 46 Mercer Street, the only institute of its kind in the country. This institute has furnished every baby in this city and, by courtesy of other municipalities, every possible opportunity to retain and regain its health.

It is one of the most regrettable facts that infants and children die by the thousands each year, and that at least 60 per cent. of this veritable slaughter of innocents is caused through ignorance and improper care. This 60 per cent. can be saved by preventative endeavor. This is the keynote of the activities of the Department of Child Hygiene. Jersey City is not only doing its full share in the conserving of infant and material life, it is far in advance of any other city in the country, and the credit for this is due to Commission Government as practiced in Jersey City. The most valuable thing in the world is a human life, and this division is busy saving them every day. There are now thousands of infants and mothers in this city living examples of the division's efforts and its contribution to the sum total of human happiness.

It would take a long article to set forth in detail all the activities of this division. Visit the Mothers' Institute; study and observe its working and you will see results that will convince you that Jersey City is making tremendous strides in providing every opportunity for its infants, the future citizens, to acquire and maintain sound bodies, well-balanced minds and wholesome morals, which should be the first concern and duty of every municipality.

The welfare stations are consultation places for the mothers and their activities are essentially education. Ignorance of child care is universal. No woman is born with an instinctive knowledge of what is best for her child. Logically to begin at the very inception of life would seem the ideal procedure, but practically the little human wrecks, the victims of deficient mothercraft, need immediate attention. They are brought to the stations and met by the nurse, who ascertains whether the infant is under the care of a physician, and if so it is not registered or kept under observation unless the physician so requests. If registered their histories are inscribed on charts and they are given a complete physical examination, including weighing and measuring by the station physician.

Artificial Feeding Discouraged.

Every effort is made to encourage breast feeding. The mother is informed that the station is not instituted to encourage artificial feeding of infants. Detailed instruction is given the mother in all matters pertaining to the care and feeding of her infant and herself. If artificial feeding is necessary, the home modification of milk is explained and a formula is given by the station physician; normal action of the stomach and interestines is secured by the balancing of the food. Habitual administering of laxatives, cathartics, soothing syrup, etc., is discouraged. The true value of the Infant Welfare Station is secured when the mother grasps the information that is within the province of the station to impart. It is in the home visit of the welfare nurse that the greatest possibilities for improving public health conditions appear. The nursing of the well is a new profession. It is prophylactic endeavor in its broadest application, commencing at the very beginning of life-conception. The hope of the future is in the hands of the public health nurse, who with the right qualifications of heart and mind can lift mankind from a place of misery, disease and death to one of security, happiness and productiveness.

Pre-eminent among all her duties is the profitable field of prenatal care. In the past no condition has received so little attention as that of the prospective mother. Social justice demands that she be safeguarded. Every child has a right to be well born and to wear the lineaments of strong, vigorous parenthood. The Infant Welfare Station is essentially a well-baby clinic, yet it is prepared to meet the contingency of sickness that is amenable to re-adjustment of food or diet. It endeavors to reach the mother before the child is born, instructing her in the principles of general and personal hygiene and the paramount value of breast feeding.

Mayor Frank Hague has taken a keen interest in the Mothers' Institute, located at 46 Mercer Street, and has spared neither time, thought or labor in making it a model of its kind, lacking nothing that modern science declares essential and the best. Visitors from near and distant cities marvel at the provisions generously made for the conservation of mothers and infants of Jersey City. As the name implies it is a school for mothers. In a spacious lecture hall illustrated lectures are given without charge on subjects relating to every phase of infant and maternal care. A central infant welfare clinic for sick babies is conducted every day from 10 a. m. to twelve noon. Any infant under one year or lacking the development of a one-year child may be admitted to a specially equipped ward in charge of a supervising nurse, where every attention is given to tide it over a critical period. Adjoining is an observation ward with bathing facilities and spacious milk laboratory.

The extent to which this division has grown and the beneficent results to Jersey City is best shown by the figures. During the year 1920 there were 28,683 cases treated at the ten welfare stations and Mothers' Institute, and 10,582 calls made by the nurses. The value of this work is conclusively shown by the illustrative cases here reproduced. Many more equally convincing can be seen at the Mothers' Institute.

This division is not in sympathy with the efforts in many sections to eliminate the midwife by prosecution, recognizing that more than 40 per cent of our infants are ushered into this world by midwives, and that these women are a necessity born of a custom inaugurated centuries ago. It has faced this problem by bringing the midwives into an organization which meets bi-monthly at the Mothers' Institute, where they are addressed by lecturers of prominence on subjects of practical value to the members of this association. This association has already raised the standard of midwifery, and removed the unfit from practice in our community.

The division of Child Hygiene is a sample of what Jersey City is doing for its mothers and infants, and is one of the most glorious achievements of Commission Government, equaled by no other city in the country.

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