Democratic Senator and later Congressman Claude Pepper of Florida was one of Lasker's first and most important allies
in Congress. In the summer of 1945, Mary and her husband prevailed upon Pepper, a friend from Florida vacations, to hold
hearings in pursuit of larger appropriations for research on cancer, mental health, and aging. The hearings not only presaged
Mary Lasker and Florence Mahoney's research interests over the next four decades, but set a pattern for their congressional
lobbying. Through her connection to the Miami Daily News and the Cox newspaper chain, Florence secured editorial endorsements
in Pepper's home state of Florida. Mary made campaign contributions to Pepper and supplied him with statistics on diseases
that caused the greatest mortality. She suggested that Pepper recite these statistics, have expert witnesses (supplied by
Lasker) testify to the need for more medical research--the first such testimony in Congress--then put government officials
on the spot by asking them how much money their departments were spending on these diseases, and why they were not asking
for more. Hearings orchestrated by Lasker over the next two decades would follow this same pattern.
Number of Image Pages:
2 (111,300 Bytes)
1948-04-01 (April 1, 1948)
United States Senate
Original Repository: Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Mary Lasker Papers
Reproduced with permission of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation.
Mary Lasker and the Growth of the National Institutes of Health
I have just wired you to get the dates of the National Heart Institute hearings. Understand from the National Heart Committee
in New York that Senator Smith has promised hearings this month.
I am very anxious that they be held as soon as possible so that it can be voted on and appropriations gotten before it is
too late to get anything going this year. I remember all the delays we had in the past on the cancer legislation, and I am
sure everything will be more difficult this year on account of the political and foreign complications.
Florence and I are going to be at our ranch, the Z Triangle ranch at Kirkland, Arizona, from this Saturday, the 3rd, until
I leave the 12th to go back to New York with Albert. Think Florence will stay on, but she will be coming to Washington
for the National Health Assembly, I'm sure.
These are very trying days for you, I know. Albert told me that he saw a strong statement by you on the Russian situation,
which I am very happy that you made as I feel that it will make people understand your position better. I do hope that Truman
will meet with Attlee and Stalin and try to come to some real understanding if that is possible. In any case, it must be tried,
as I think you pointed out.
I feel that the National Heart Institute legislation can be one of the most important that can be done for our country. More
than twice as many people die each year due to diseases of the heart than were killed during the four and one-half years of
war. Many hundreds of thousands of these deaths were unnecessary or lives could have been prolonged if more had been known
through research about
treatment and diagnosis.
The same kind of work that the National Cancer Institute is now doing must be done on an even larger scale with the Heart
Institute, but I think the National Cancer Institute has started a pattern in the last year that will be helpful.
Do write us at the ranch and tell us what is going on, and how you and Mildred both are.