American Cancer Society
169 Hillcrest Lane, Mena, AR 71953
|Memorial Chairman||Mary Lou Plumb|
American Cancer Society mission statement
The American Cancer Society is the nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.
American Society for the Control of Cancer is founded
The American Cancer Society was founded in 1913 as the American Society for the Control of Cancer (ASCC). This group was started by 15 well-known doctors and business leaders in New York City. The start of this group was a very important event in the history of public health.
In those early days, cancer was rarely mentioned in public. The disease was steeped in a climate of fear and denial. At that time cancer claimed 75,000 lives a year in the United States alone. The Society's founders knew they had to raise public awareness if progress was to be made. The number of doctors, nurses, patients and family members who had to be reached was overwhelming. Despite the enormity of their task, the founders and their colleagues set about writing articles for popular magazines and professional journals. They also published Campaign Notes, a monthly bulletin of cancer information, and recruited doctors throughout the country to help teach the public about cancer.
The Women's Field Army takes action
In 1936, Marjorie G. Illig, an ASCC field representative and chair of the General Federation of Women's Clubs Committee on Public Health, made an extraordinary suggestion. She proposed creating a legion of new volunteers whose sole purpose was to wage war on cancer. The Women's Field Army, as this organization came to be called, was a huge success. Its recruits wore khaki uniforms, complete with insignia of rank and achievement, and canvassed the streets to raise money and help educate the public.
Clarence Little, the ASCC's managing director at the time, wrote that "In 1935 there were 15,000 people active in cancer control throughout the United States. At the close of 1938, there were 10 times that number." More than anything else, it was the Women's Field Army that moved the Society to the forefront of voluntary health organizations.
The American Cancer Society is created
In 1945, the ASCC was reorganized as the American Cancer Society. It was the beginning of a new era for the organization and, in many ways, for the country as a whole. World War II was over, the single greatest threat to modern democracy had been defeated, and the nation could at last focus on the enemy at home. Many believed it was time for another bold move. In 1946, Mary Lasker and her colleagues met this challenge by raising more than $4 million for the Society -- $1 million of which was used to establish the Society's research program. With the help of dedicated volunteers like Lasker and Elmer Bobst, the Society's research program quickly began to bear fruit.
The Society's symbol
Another historical point of interest is the use of the sword as a symbol for the American Cancer Society. The sword came from a nationwide poster contest in 1928 sponsored by the national society, then called American Society for the Control of Cancer, and the local division, the New York City Cancer Committee. George E. Durant of Brooklyn won the contest, receiving a first prize of $500. He explained that he selected the sword to express the crusading spirit of the cancer control movement. The twin-serpent caduceus, which forms the handle of the sword, emphasizes the medical and scientific nature of the Society's work. Classically, twined serpents represent healing of the sick and creativity of the healthy.
Since 1928, the American Cancer Society has used the sword as its symbol as it continues to champion the causes of cancer prevention, eliminating suffering from cancer, and saving lives.
Guide to Quit Smoking: Quit Smoking
National Web Site: American Cancer Society
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