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Santa Fe Maternal Health Center Records

Identifier: MSS-489-BC

Scope and Content

The records of the Santa Fe Maternal & Child Health Center consist of correspondence, minutes and reports, office records, financial records and patient records. Correspondence includes letters sent, 1938-1965 and letters received, 1936-1963, including a few from Margaret Sanger. The minutes of the Board of Directors monthly and annual meetings, filed chronologically, include clinic, committee and treasurer reports. Office files contain literature on birth control and sex education, 1934-76 and newspaper clippings, 1958-70. The collection also contains an index to a scrapbook dated 1937-51 and a photocopy of the scrapbook (the original scrapbook itself remains at the SFM&CHC). Financial records, invoices, vouchers, ledgers, tax and insurance documents, bank account and investment records cover 1937-74. The patient records, 1946-76 are restricted.


  • 1936-1980

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

All Day Sheets and other patient records are restricted. Qualified researchers engaged in publishable research are required to present written permission from the Santa Fe Maternal & Child Health Center to access restricted material.

Access to Box 35 (original scrapbooks) is restricted. Patrons must use photocopies of scrapbooks (Box 34).

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Institutional History

The Santa Fe Maternal & Child Health Center (SFM&CHC) was founded in 1937 in Santa Fe, New Mexico under the name Santa Fe Maternal Health Center.

The Center was founded in response to the alarming infant mortality rate in Santa Fe, the highest in the nation. The original intent was to provide free or low cost pre- and postnatal maternal care and infant care to the indigent. After a visit to New Mexico by Margaret Sanger in 1937, the founders were determined to make birth control available to clinic patients as well. Birth control education and distribution was not a popular idea in Northern New Mexico, but the founders decided that the new center would affiliate with the Clinical Research Bureau of the American Birth Control League in New York.

The clinic first opened in October of 1937 with a paid staff of one full-time registered nurse. No Santa Fe doctor was willing to distribute birth control, so Dr. Evelyn Frisbie of Albuquerque donated her services by driving to Santa Fe on Sundays to hold free clinics. All clerical and reception duties, as well as management and fund raising work was done by members of the Board of Directors and other volunteers.

The Center soon began to provide relief services to its patients and the need to expand programs became evident. Women went for obstetric and gynecological care, but many other medical problems were discovered during examinations. Also, mothers brought their sick children, many needing better nutrition and adequate clothing as well as medical care. The center began to distribute food, milk and clothing in response. They referred patients for other medical services, convincing specialists to reduce their fees and raising funds to cover hospital and laboratory expenses. In addition, the board members found paid employment for several clinic patients or their husbands. They also provided new mothers with layettes and showed them how to make simple but clean baby beds out of cardboard and newspapers. Nurses made home visits to care for the sick and to evaluate living conditions.

The Clinical Research Bureau withdrew affiliation with the SFM&CHC in 1938, arguing that the Center's emphasis was on general medicine, not birth control. At the same time, it was impossible to get support from the New Mexico Department of Public Health, because the clinic was distributing birth control. The board of directors began a strong and successful fund raising campaign which, combined with active volunteerism, has served to keep the clinic running. Fund raising activities have included direct mailings, sponsoring theatrical events and a thrift shop started in 1947 to sell donated used clothing and household items at low cost.

The various programs offered by the center have changed in response to the needs of the indigent community and the availability of duplicate services. They have included a visiting nurses program, an eye clinic, operative diagnosis and a surgical clinic, free physical examinations for public school children, a pediatric dental clinic, Christmas parties for children of low income families and a loan closet which rented sick room equipment at very low or no cost. In 1955 the board officially changed the name to the Santa Fe Maternal & Child Health Center to better reflect the extent of their services.

The main functions of the Center were the maternal and pediatric (sick and well child) clinics offered from the opening of the SFM&CHC until the late 1970s. Clinic operation depended on considerable donations of time by doctors and clerical staff. Falling volunteerism and the subsequent rising cost for paid personnel were problems that the Center's Board of Directors had to deal with through the late 1960s and 1970s. State and city grants kept the clinics operating, but when grant funding dried up, the Board had to cut services. The maternal and pediatric clinic services were available elsewhere through federal, state and other private programs, so the decision was made to drop those programs at the SFM&CHC after 40 years of service to the community in those areas.

The Center's services now meet the continued need for affordable dental care for low income families and for sex education among teenagers in the community. The center is now working with the Santa Fe Public Schools to provide free clinics at high schools. In this way the SFM&CHC continues to provide the Santa Fe community with health care for the medically indigent and with medical social services.


35 boxes (27.8 cu. ft.)

Finding aid of the Santa Fe Maternal Health Center Records, 1936-1980
Processed by CSWR staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 489 BC::Santa Fe Maternal Health Center Records)//EN" "nmu1mss489bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131