“I am opposed to cancer and heart attacks the way I am opposed to sin!” With that as her battlecry, Mary Woodard Lasker rewrote the book on medical research and health education. Her name may not be familiar, but her work – which ultimately led to myriad momentous discoveries – continues to save millions of lives around the world.
My current book project (working title Mary Lasker: The Woman Who Healed America, but publishers are well-known for creating their own titles!)paints the never-before-told story of a remarkable woman and her remarkable life. The portrait that emerges is one of a feminist who used her femininity wisely. She was savvy, steely, and deliberate. At a time when women in research laboratories and the halls of Congress were an anomaly, Mary smashed stereotypes in the fashion of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Shirley Chisholm.
She is inspirational not because she was poor, down-trodden, or in ill health. In fact, she was quite the opposite of all of those, which makes her tireless work on behalf of people she would never know even more extraordinary.
More than a biography of a woman with a mission, this book is an absorbing history of the country’s march toward newer and better treatments of humanity’s most feared diseases and conditions. When ill, today’s Americans have the luxury of going to a doctor, getting a diagnosis, and following a treatment protocol. Thanks to the best medical research facility in the world – the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – we take those things for granted. Yet prior to World War II, NIH was a lowly off-shoot of the Public Health Service. We have Mary Lasker to thank for the sweeping research reform.
Mary positioned herself at the crossroads of politics, science and medicine – current hot topics in education and literature. And because of Mary’s tenacity and unending lobbying, she is the effectually the architect of NIH’s heart and lung, mental illness, infectious diseases, and cancer institutes. Most significantly, she was the catalytic agent who persuaded Richard Nixon to sign the National Cancer Act, turning the tide on survivorship of the disease.
Books about little known figures in history – particularly those who are unconventional rebels –are my reading and writing passion. I am equally keen to learn (and write!) what motivates people to step completely out of their assumed lanes in order to unselfishly aid their fellow human beings. This book will certainly fit those parameters.
Stay tuned for updates!