Polio and the Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelts

“The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” debuted last night on PBS, and if you ask me, this seven-part documentary by Ken Burns is living up to all the good reviews it’s received so far.

FDR Blog

Franklin D. Roosevelt was diagnosed with polio in 1921.

Last night’s Part One ended with U.S. Vice President Teddy Roosevelt becoming president after William McKinley is assassinated. It was great, and now I’m really looking forward to Part Four on Wednesday. That episode is called The Storm, it covers the years between 1920 and 1933, and I’m curious to find out how Burns will handle FDR’s polio diagnosis during that time.

The treatment of polio is part of our history here at Easter Seals. In the early 1900s, the dramatic increase in polio cases caused the disease to be regarded as an epidemic. Thousands of children and adults were paralyzed by polio, and Easter Seals founder Edgar Allen raised funds and built a hospital where children with polio could stay and attend school. Children were also fitted for crutches and leg braces at the hospital.

Today, Easter Seals provides services to people with all sorts of disabilities, and we still treat people with post-polio syndrome.

I’m hoping Part Four of the documentary will show some of the exercises and equipment used early in the 20th century — maybe that way I’ll get a better idea of how therapies have changed over the years. Guess we’ll all just have to stay tuned.


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  1. Beth Finke Says:

    Trust me, I’ll be right there in front of the television tomorrow night. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Beth Finke Says:

    Oh, I’d love to check that out. I’ve read a few books about Franklin and Eleanor, most recently the one by Doris Kearnes Goodwin, and now would like to actually go to some of the places mentioned in their stories. THANK you for this recommendation.

  3. Diane Drolet Says:

    If the next 6 parts are as good as last night’s – I’m sure Wednesday will be as informative as you hope.

  4. Walter Spencer Says:

    There is a lot of information about Roosevelt’s polio in the exhibits at his home, Hyde Park. Braces, and a hand driven car he used are on display

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