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Carolyn Conant Van Blarcom was born in Alton, Illinois in 1875. She grew up in St. Louis. Her grandfather was the painter Alban Jasper Conant. In 1896 she moved to New Jersey to be with an aunt. She was connected with the Hasbrouck Institute, Jersey City, as a chaperon. In 1898 she entered Johns Hopkins Hospital Training School for Nurses as a pupil nurse. She graduated in 1901 and remained at Hopkins until 1904. While at Hopkins she served as an Instructor, Supervisor, and Second Assistant Superintendent of Nurses. She specialized in the obstetrical wards as the head nurse and was in charge of the Nurses Home. In 1904 she represented Hopkins at the St. Louis Exhibit. Between 1904-1905, she was Superintendent of Nurses at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis where she reorganized the training school. In 1908, she organized a Graduate Nurses Club and Central Registry for Nurses in Pasadena, California. Briefly in 1908, she was Superintendent of Nurses at the Maryland State Sanatorium for Tuberculosis in Sabillasville. In 1909 she organized work in connection with a private sanitarium for tuberculosis patients in New Bedford, Mass.

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From 1909 to 1916, she was Executive Secretary of the New York Association for the Prevention of Blindness, later the National Committee for the Prevention of Blindness. During these years she made a survey of all state, county and city laws in the United States relating to mother and infant health during childbirth. She registered as a midwife with the New York City Department of Health, the first trained nurse to do so. She then surveyed European laws regulating midwives. In 1911, through the Russell Sage Foundation, she studied the results in England of the Midwives Act of 1902. This work was published in 1913 as “The Midwife in England.” She helped organize the curriculum for the first midwives school in the United States in connection with Bellevue Hospital. Between 1916 and 1917, she was Executive Secretary of the Illinois Association for the Prevention of Blindness. In 1917, she took charge of the New York office of the Red Cross Nursing Service as Director of the Atlantic Division of the American Red Cross, where she was in charge of outfitting and supplying Red Cross nurses going overseas in World War I.

From 1919 to 1920, she was Health Editor for the Delineator Magazine, where she published a series of articles, “Making the World Safe for Babies.” In 1922, she published the book, Obstetrical Nursing, a widely used nursing textbook. She also published a companion book, Getting Ready to be a Mother, an advice book for mothers. In 1924, she addressed the third English speaking Conference on Infant Welfare in London. In 1929, the Chicago Tribune published another of her health advice books Building the Baby. She was the author of numerous articles advocating trained nurse midwives, birth control, infant and maternal healthcare, and the prevention of blindness. In 1926 she, along with Dr. William Welch and Dr. Whitridge Williams, secured for Johns Hopkins University the E. Bayard Halsted Fund for Medical Research, which funds a chair in Bacteriology. She also secured from E. Bayard Halsted a gift to Johns Hopkins for the Study of Mental Deficiency in Child-bearing Women from 1929-1932. In the 1930s she was also on the Board of Trustees of Margaret Sanger’s Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau. In 1942, she organized a Red Cross Nurses Aides course in Pasadena, California. She died in 1961.

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The Carolyn Conant Van Blarcom collection consists of correspondence, writings and publications, clippings, scrapbooks, and photographs.

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