“I am opposed to heart disease and cancer the way one is opposed to sin.” With that as her battle cry, health activist and philanthropist, Mary Woodard Lasker, had a singular goal: saving lives by increasing medical research. Together with her husband, advertising genius Albert, they created the Lasker Foundation, bestowing the Lasker Awards, the most prestigious research awards in America.
Next, the Laskers transformed the sleepy and ineffectual American Society for the Control of Cancer, reimagining it as the American Cancer Society and overseeing a dramatic rise in its donations for the study of cancer.
But the real increase in medical research occurred when Mary discovered a revolutionary funding source: the federal government. “I’m just a catalytic agent,” she would insist. Yet juxtaposed against her fabulous homes, jaw-dropping jewels, and museum-worthy art collection, Mary’s tireless lobbying before Congress and presidents alike expanded the National Institutes of Health from a single entity to the largest research facility in the world. A feminist who used her femininity wisely, her ultimate victory was bringing together two political adversaries to launch the original cancer moonshot: the 1971 National Cancer Act. Those research dollars turned the tide on survivorship of the disease.
This engaging and deeply researched biography paints the portrait of a woman who was savvy, steely, and deliberate. Mary Lasker courageously positioned herself at the crossroads of politics, science and medicine, leading the country’s march to conquer humanity’s most feared maladies.