Born this day in 1881: Esther Lape (1881–1981), journalist, researcher, publicist, feminist, and activist who advocated for world peace and a nationalized healthcare system.
Esther Lape was a well-known and influential figure. She was also mentor and friend, along with her partner Elizabeth Fisher Read, to Eleanor Roosevelt. Lape and Read published a weekly legislative review called City, State and Nation.
One of Lape’s main causes was world peace, and saw an end to U.S. isolationism as a means to achieve it. Between 1923 and 1935 she fought hard for U.S. adherence to the Permanent Court of International Justice (today’s World Court). President Coolidge looked to her for help when the Senate blocked efforts to join the court, but the effort failed by 7 votes.
She next turned her attention to health care, crusading for health reform on a national level. In 1937 Lape spearheaded an inquiry, involving some 2,100 leading physicians, on the organization of medical care in the United States. The study, American Medicine: Expert Testimony Out of Court, explored whether it was appropriate and necessary for a democratic government to have a role in the health care of its citizens. The study indeed pointed to a need for public health policy. FDR added the right to adequate medical care under his “second Bill of Rights.” Presidents Truman and Eisenhower both took up the cause of health security with calls for a national healthcare system. In 1955 Lape, along with Read and Eleanor Roosevelt, published another influential study, Medical Research: A Midcentury Survey. Lape continued lobbying for her vision of democratized health care to the end of her days.