Naomi Deutsch, a leader in the field of public health nursing, was born on November 5, 1890, in Brno, Moravia, the second child of Rabbi Dr. Gotthard and Hermine (Bacher) Deutsch. With her parents, her brother Herman, and her sister Edith, she immigrated to Cincinnati, Ohio, where her brothers Eberhard and Zola were born. She graduated from Walnut Hills High School in 1908 and from the Jewish Hospital School of Nursing in 1912.
From 1912 to 1916, she worked at Irene Kauffman Settlement House in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1916, she enrolled at New York City’s Columbia University Teachers College, receiving a B.S. degree in 1921. From 1917 to 1924, she worked at the Henry Street Settlement, serving as supervisor, field director, and acting director. She applied for military service in World War I but was refused because of her place of birth. She also was a member of the American Red Cross Nursing Services (badge number 36,776).
Deutsch was the director of the San Francisco Visiting Nurse Association from 1925 to 1934 and began public speaking engagements as early as 1926. She became a lecturer in public health nursing at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1933 and in 1934 was appointed assistant professor and assumed full charge of the public health nursing course. She was invited to the White House Conference on Child Health and Protection in February 1931 and to the 1940 Conference on Children in a Democracy.
In 1935, Deutsch accepted the position of organizing and directing the Public Health Unit of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Federal Children’s Bureau in Washington, D.C. She became a staff member of the Pan American Sanitation Bureau in 1943. As principal nurse consultant, she collaborated in the development of health programs in the Caribbean and Central America and traveled extensively in the region. Returning to Columbia University Teachers College, she served as an associate in research in nursing education (1945–1946) and part-time instructor (1946–1950).
Deutsch was affiliated with numerous professional organizations during her career, among them the National League of Nursing Education, the California State Conference of Social Work, the American Nurses Association, the American Association of Social Workers, the National Conference of Social Workers, and Delta Omega. She served at various times on the boards of the California State Nurses Association and the National Organization of Public Health Nursing, as president of the California State Organization for Public Health Nursing and the Social Workers Alliance of San Francisco, and on the governing council of the American Public Health Association. She was also a member of the National League of Women Voters and worked with Planned Parenthood, staying active with these groups well into retirement.
She remained in New York City until 1973, when she moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, to share an apartment with her sister, who was in frail health. Deutsch died on November 26, 1983.
SELECTED WRITINGS BY NAOMI DEUTSCH
“Economic Aspects of Maternal Care.” Public Health Nursing 31 (November 1939): 619–624; “Generalized Public Health Nursing Services in Cities.” American Journal of Public Health 25 (April 1935): 475–478; “Promoting Maternal and Child Health: Public Health Nursing Under Social Security Act, Title V, Part I.” With M.D. Willeford. American Journal of Nursing 41 (August 1941): 894–899; “Public Health Nursing in Programs for Crippled Children.” Public Health Nursing 29 (January 1937): 10–15; “Public Health Nursing Under the Social Security Act: Development Under the Children’s Bureau.” With H. Hilbert. Public Health Reports 28 (September 1936): 582–585; “Role of Public Health Nurse in Service for Crippled Children.” Public Health Nursing 29 (June 1937): 350–356; “What Every Health Officer Should Know: Public Health Nursing.” American Journal of Public Health 28 (September 1938): 1087–1090.
Binheim, Max, ed. Women of the West (1928); Bullough, Vern, O.M. Church, and A.P. Stein, eds. American Nursing: A Biographical Dictionary (1988); Bullough, Vern, L. Sentz, and A.P. Stein, eds. American Nursing: A Biographical Dictionary (1992); Hawkins, Joellen. “Naomi Deutsch.” In Dictionary of American Nursing Biography, edited by M. Kaufman (1988); Howes, D., ed. American Women, 1935–1940: A Composite Biographical Dictionary. Vol. I (1941); Mayer, Susan L. “The Jewish Experience in Nursing in America: 1881 to 1955.” Ed.D. diss., Teachers College, Columbia University (1996).
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Mayer, Susan L.. "Naomi Deutsch." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on August 11, 2020) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/deutsch-naomi>.