Margaret Irving Handy

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Margaret Irving Handy
Margaret Irving Handy.jpg
Born 1889
Smyrna, Delaware
Died 1977
Known for Pioneer of pediatric medicine, established the first mothers' milk bank at Delaware Hospital
Medical career
Profession Physician
Institutions Delaware Hospital
Specialism Pediatrics

Margaret Irving Handy (1889 - 1977) was a pioneering doctor who was one of the first to specialize in pediatric medicine.[1] [2] In 1945, she established the first mothers' milk bank at Delaware Hospital (now Wilmington Hospital) in Wilmington, Delaware. [3][4]

Handy was born in Smyrna, Delaware and was the daughter of L. Irving Handy, a U.S. Representative.[5] She attended Goucher College and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from which she graduated in 1916.[1] She was the first native-born female Delawarean to become a doctor and was also the state’s first pediatrician.[5]

In 1918, during an outbreak of Spanish influenza in the Wilmington area, Handy was asked by the Board of Health to open a paediatric ward at People's Settlement staffed by volunteers and with very little equipment.[6] She subsequently established a pediatric clinic and became Assistant Chief, and in 1921, Chief, of Pediatrics at Delaware Hospital where she set up a nursery for premature babies.[5] Handy collected surplus breast milk in the community to feed the babies of mothers who could not breast feed, and in 1945 founded the Mother's Milk Bank with Margaret Trentman, a hospital board member whose baby son had died because she was unable to nurse him.[4][5] The bank supplied breast milk to mothers throughout the United States as well as for research purposes, for 40 years.[7] She also helped to establish ophthalmology as a speciality in Delaware, with Norman Cutler becoming the first state-certified ophthalmologist in 1947.[8]

Handy received a number of awards including the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary's Elizabeth Blackwell Citation (honoring female doctors) and the Annie Jump Cannon medal from Wesley College as well as the 1953 Josiah Marvel Cup for outstanding contributions to the state and to society in the field of children's medicine.[5][9] The Margaret Handy Lectureship at Christiana Hospital in [Newark, Delaware] is named for her.[10]

Andrew Wyeth painted The Children's Doctor, a "votive-like" portrait of Handy, in 1949 after she treated his son Nicholas at his remote farm.[2][11] Wyeth also painted another portrait, From the Capes, in 1974 and gave her Lenape Barn, a watercolour, as a gift in 1961.[10][12][13]


  1. ^ a b Duff, J.H. (1990). "Margaret Irving Handy: a lady and a doctor". Delaware Medical Journal. 62 (4): 944–8, 951–4. PMID 2187716. 
  2. ^ a b Emery, Alan E. H.; Marcia Emery (2002). Medicine and Art. Royal Society of Medicine Press Ltd. p. 92. ISBN 978-1-85315-501-7. 
  3. ^ Valerie W. McClain, IBCLC (2003-01-23). "Human Milk Banks, patenting". NewsgroupLACTNET Check |newsgroup= value (help). Retrieved 2007-10-19. 
  4. ^ a b "Obituary: Margaret H. Trentman". South Coast Today. The South Coast Media Group. 2001-09-06. Retrieved 2007-10-19. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Dr Margaret Irving Handy". Changing the Face of Medicine. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 2007-10-19. 
  6. ^ Liebesman, Maurice (Spring 2006). "In-flu-Enza" (PDF). AAP Senior Bulletin. American Academy of Pediatrics. 15 (2): 21–22. Retrieved 2007-10-19. 
  7. ^ Handy, Margaret (1964-03-03). "Mothers' Milk Bank at the Delaware Hospital". Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics. 33 (3): 468. Retrieved 2007-10-19. 
  8. ^ "A Brief History". Delaware Ophthalmology Consultants. Retrieved 2007-10-19. 
  9. ^ "Josiah Marvel Cup Award Recipients 1951 - 2005" (PDF). Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 19, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-19. 
  10. ^ a b (cached) "Dr. Margaret I. Handy Annual Memorial Lectureship" Check |url= value (help). Nemours. 2003-02-23. Retrieved 2007-10-19. 
  11. ^ Barilan, Y. Michael (Winter 2004). "Medicine through the artist's eyes before, during and after the Holocaust" (PDF). Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. 47 (1): 110–134. doi:10.1353/pbm.2004.0001. PMID 15061172. Retrieved 2007-10-19. Andrew Wyeth’s portrait of Dr. Margaret Handy (1949, Brandwyne River Museum, Chadds Fords, Pennsylvania, not shown) is a votive-like portrait of the famous pediatrician who called on the artist’s sick son in his distant farm; it is based on photography and on the visual language of The Country Doctor. 
  12. ^ "Wyeth Trial Balloon - How Hot Does It Have to Be?". Artnet News. artnet Worldwide Corporation. 2000-04-20. Retrieved 2007-10-19. 
  13. ^ "Lot 136 : ANDREW WYETH B. 1917". Invaluable Group Ltd. 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-19. 

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