Better Babies Contests in the United States (1908–1916)
Better babies contests were competitions held in state fairs throughout the US during the early twentieth century in which babies between the ages of 6 and 48 months were judged for their health. In 1908, social activist Mary de Garmo established and held the first better babies contest at the Louisiana State Fair in Shreveport, Louisiana. The contests, mirroring theories established in the US’s eugenics movement of the twentieth century, aimed to establish standards for judging infant health. Nurses and physicians judged infants participating in the contest on mental health, physical health, and physical appearance. In 1913, the Woman’s Home Companion (WHC) magazine cosponsored de Garmo’s better babies contests and introduced the competition to state fairs throughout the US. Better babies contests helped promote routine health assessments of children by medical professionals.