MS 205 Leo Kanner Papers on Refugee Medical Personnel

Posted on September 6th, 2012 by

It’s been awhile since we sent out a finding aid post.  We’re picking up with one of our more recent collections, which deals with Dr. Leo Kanner’s work in finding employment for refugees from Nazi Germany who had medical training (mostly doctors).  One of the things that I like about this collection is how it connects us to another Baltimore institution.  It’s not unusual for multiple museums or archives to have related materials.  People and even organizations are often part of multiple groups and communities.  Leo Kanner was a member of the Baltimore Jewish community, so having papers here at the JMM makes sense.  He also worked at Johns Hopkins Medical School and so they too have some of his papers.  After you’ve read through our finding aid, click on the link to The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives to check out another one.

 The Leo Kanner (1894-1981) Papers

on Refugee Medical Personnel

1938-1958 (Bulk 1938-1944)

 MS 205

 Jewish Museum of Maryland

Leo Kanner, c. 1955. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine. http:///


The Leo Kanner Papers on Refugee Medical Personnel were donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland by Baltimore Hebrew University in 2006 as accession 2006.27. The collection was processed by Jennifer Vess in 2012.

Access to the collection is unrestricted and available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Researchers must obtain written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library’s usual practices
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Leo Kanner was born in Klekotow, Austria on June 13, 1894.  After serving in the Austrian army during World War I, Kanner entered the University of Berlin and earned his medical degree in 1921.  In 1924 he immigrated to theUnited States to work at the Yankton State Hospital in Yankton, South Dakota.  In 1928 Dr. Adolph Meyer, the founder of the School of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School, invited Kanner to join the staff.  At Johns Hopkins Kanner established the first child psychology clinic in the United States in 1930.  Kanner became well known for his work in child psychology and his studies of autism.

Kanner married June Lewin in 1921 and they had a son, Albert Kanner who became a doctor.  Kanner died in 1981 in Sykesville, Maryland.


The Leo Kanner Papers on Refugee Medical Personnel contain correspondence related to the employment of German refugee doctors before, during and after World War II.  The correspondence concerns the immigration, certification, and employment of medical personnel (mostly doctors).  Kanner corresponded with government officials, potential employers, the National Committee for Resettlement of Foreign Physicians, the doctors themselves, etc.  Some of the letters, particularly those written by the refugee medical personnel, are in German.  Mini biographies for many of the individuals concerned are written on stationary from The Johns Hopkins Hospital Harriet Lane Home for Invalid Children.  The letters are organized alphabetically by the last name of the medical personnel.

Collections at other institutions:

“Leo Kanner Collection,” The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of The Johns HopkinsMedical Institutions. http:///


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

MS 113 Lena Barber Midwife Records

Posted on February 9th, 2012 by

Not long ago I posted the finding aid for MS 180 the Rosa Fineberg midwife records.  Midwife records are a rich resource for genealogists.  Besides the expected birthdates, the books also contain information about the occupations and origins of the parents.  We are lucky enough to have two collections and the following finding aid excerpt gives information about Lena Barber and her work. 

Lena Barber (c. 1860 – c. 1940),

Midwife Records, n.d., 1892 -1930

MS 113

   The Jewish Museum of Maryland

Lena Barber, c.1900. 1985.62.1


The midwife records of Lena Barber were donated to the Jewish Museum of Maryland by Rose Kushner in 1985 as accession 1985.062. The collection was processed in April 2003 by Robin Waldman.

Access to the collection is unrestricted and is available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library’s usual procedures.


Lena Barber was a Russian immigrant who lived at 44 West York Streeti n South Baltimore who made a living as a midwife. She would walk to clients’ homes and would wear a white apron while she worked. She delivered most babies on her own, using just her hands, but Barber called in a medical doctor whenever complications arose during the birth. Her daughter or granddaughter often accompanied her when she went to deliver babies, and in most instances, they probably filled out the forms for Barber, because her English was not very practiced.

Baltimore City law required that every person practicing midwifery in the City of Baltimore had to keep a register of births and had to enter the information in that register, as provided by the Office of Registrar of Vital Statistics of the Board of Health. That information further had to be copied onto a monthly schedule, which was in turn delivered, signed, to the office of the Commissioner of Health on the first, second or third day of every month. As noted on the Return of a Birth form in the records, “Any such person or persons who shall hereafter fail to comply with the provisions…shall be subjected to a fine of ten (10) dollars for each offense.” Forms were provided by the City office, and copies of each form were both retained by the midwife and turned in for recordation by the City.

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Cover of 1892-1893 record book. 1985.62.2

Lena Barber’s life and death dates were estimated by her great-grandson, Steve Barber, based on the following information:

Lena came to the United States in 1883 with two children. She was already widowed when she came (fromRussia), and subsequently remarried in Baltimore and had one more child. Steve’s father was one of Lena’s grandsons. Steve’s father and mother were married in the spring of 1940, and Lena attended the wedding. She died a few months afterward.

Note: For more anecdotal information, see Kellman, Naomi, “Grandmother was a Midwife,” Baltimore Jewish Times, September 24, 1982.


Lena Barber recorded the details of the births she facilitated in a series of at least sixteen notebooks. Sixteen notebooks are included in these records, but a gap from the years 1923-1928 indicates that at least one notebook might be missing. Information that was recorded included:

Sex, and No. of Child of Mother; Name of Child (in later notebooks); Race or Color; Date; Place of Birth; Full Name of Mother; Mother’s Maiden Name; Mother’s Birthplace; Full Name of Father; Father’s Occupation; Father’s Birthplace

Also included among the records are a photograph of Lena Barber, several examples of the paperwork she was required to utilize for compliance with city law, and some of her undated notes on births she performed.


Page 1 of the 1892-1893 record book. 1985.62.2


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