Women in History – Women in IH making History


March is Women in History Month, and at ESSI we are celebrating Women in IH that made history! Each week, we will focus on a different pioneer, leader or luminary, and provide an overview of their career highlights and contributions to the field.  In this first post, we celebrate Dr. Anna M. Baetjer – the first female president of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA)1.

Dr. Baetjer was born in 1899 in Maryland2 and earned a B.A. in English literature and zoology from Wellesley College before attending Johns Hopkins University. There she earned her Sc.D. from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in 19242,3. Her research career at Hopkins spanned 45 years, starting as a research associate in 1924 and progressing to full professor in 1962. 

Among her research accomplishments is her early research of the impact of physiological and sociological factors on women’s job performance3,5. Her recommendations for change, including the suggestion to modify industrial machinery thereby making it safer for women to operate, made the workplace safer for women during and following World War II3. She published the book “Women in Industry: Their Health and Efficiency”, sharing this work to others5.  

Through her investigation of the incidence of cancer among workers exposed to chromium in a chromium plant and waste pile, she demonstrated a direct link between these exposures and cancer.  Her subsequent work with the World Health Organization led to the development of exposure standards for industrial chromium use3.

Towards the latter phase of her academic career, Dr. Baetjer established an association between exposure to inorganic arsenic and an increased risk of cancer among workers at pesticide plants3

Dr. Baetjer served as president of the AIHA in 1951, and was the first female IH to do so. She also served as an advisor to the National Research Council, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of the Surgeon General and the Food and Drug Administration.  Her contributions to the field earned her numerous awards, including the 1974 Stokinger Award by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists2

She retired from Johns Hopkins University in 1972 and in 1985, Johns Hopkins established the Anna M. Baetjer Chair in Environmental Health Sciences4, contributing to her impressive legacy. 

At ESSI, we are conducting applied research to improve the health and wellbeing of workers and the communities in which they live, in collaboration with the University of Minnesota School of Public Health Midwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety and our Industrial Hygiene program. Our students contribute to that research and in doing so, develop the knowledge and skills they will need to become the leaders and luminaries of tomorrow.  Find out more here! (https://essi.umn.edu/about/)


  1. https://www.aiha.org/about-aiha/aiha-governance/past-presidents
  1. Harvey, Joyce; Ogilvie, Marilyn, eds. (2000), “Baetjer, Anna Medora (1899–?)”, The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science: Pioneering Lives from Ancient Times to the Mid-Twentieth Century, 1, New York: Routledge, pp. 66–67, ISBN 978-0-415-92039-1
  2. Purdy, Michael (Fall 2011), “Occupational Health’s Dynamo”, Johns Hopkins Public Health, OCLC 166902844, archived from the original 
  3. History – Anna Baetjer”, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health 
  4. Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center (December 2011), “Historical snapshot: Dr. Anna Baetjer, industrial hygiene pioneer, military occupational health advocate, Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, 18 (12): 14–15, ISSN 2152-8217, PMID 22229336, archived from the original