Mid-20th century Americans feared polio almost as much as they feared the atomic bomb. “It’s hard to imagine today how pervasive the fear was, and how embedded in the American psyche,” says author Kathryn Black, whose mother was stricken by the disease. That fear motivated Americans to support the cause.
One non-medical legacy of the crusade against polio is in the area of grassroots fundraising. Traditionally, charitable causes relied on large sums of money from wealthy benefactors. But the March of Dimes’ approach proved that seeking small contributions from the millions was an effective strategy.
Times have changed, and now many Americans donate money with the click of a mouse instead of an envelope and a stamp. It’s becoming hard to find a charity or cause that doesn’t accept online donations, no matter how small. According to Federal Election Commission filings, in his 2008 presidential campaign, Democratic candidate and ultimate victor Barack Obama raised a staggering amount, more than $656 million, from individual contributions, and racked up nearly 2.4 million individual donations. More than half of those individual donations were for $200 or less.
Learn more about Presidential campaign funding today.
Federal Election Commission
A historic effort to shatter the foundations of white supremacy in what was one of the nation’s most viciously racist, segregated states.
Silent film actress Mary Pickford played a pivotal role in bringing Hollywood into the center of the motion picture industry.
Accused by a janitor, a respected Harvard professor was hanged for the murder of Dr. George Parkman, one of Boston's richest citizens, in 1849.
In 1969, homosexuality was illegal in almost every state... but that was about to change. The Stonewall riots marked a major turning point in the modern gay civil rights movement.
An updated look at the Alabama tenant farmer families that Walker Evans and James Agee documented in their 1936 Pulitzer Prize-winning book.
This funny, probing program re-examines assumptions about American culture in the 1950s.
The 1968 Democratic National Convention saw a clash of political visions on the convention floor and violence outside on the streets of Chicago.
Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst fought to suppress a film by Orson Welles, a film that would become one of cinema's masterpieces.