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Helen Hayes on "What's My Line"

Helen Hayes, who was James MacArthur's mother, appeared as the celebrity guest on What's My Line on April 14, 1957. After not quite managing to stump the panel, she told about the Mary MacArthur Memorial Respirator Center, which she founded to raise funds to help patients with respiratory problems. Mary MacArthur was, of course, James' sister, who passed away at the age of 19 of polio in September 1949.

To explain, there are three types of poliomyelitis (polio), spinal, bulbar, and spino-bulbar. Spinal affects movement, bulbar affects breathing, and spino-bulbar affects both. In short, polio is a wicked disease. A preventive vaccine was developed in the early 1950s by Dr. Jonas Salk -- but only after the invention of the electron microscope made it possible for researchers to see viruses.

In 1954, field trials were held by administering Dr. Salk's vaccine to school children in select school districts across the nation. My school was in one of the participating districts. We were bussed to the health center and given the first of three inoculations. Later, we were bussed for the second and third inoculations.

Dr. Salk's vaccine greatly reduced the incidence of polio; however, it was improved by Dr. Albert Sabin, who developed an oral vaccine. Preventive vaccines against polio have been improved ever since, until today, polio has been eradicated from almost all countries.

You can see Miss Hayes on What's My Line. You may want to fast-forward past the first two challengers to reach her challenge. Stay tuned afterwards to hear her talk about the Center. Yes, she talks about James, too!

Read about Mary MacArthur and learn more about just how terrible polio is.

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Oct 08, 2023

Interesting article. I'll have to watch the video later. Mary's death was so tragic, but Helen Hayes managed to do so much good in Mary's memory. I was born in 1959 and I do remember those oral polio vaccines in grade school.

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