Mary Lasker, 1957
December 30, 1900
|Died||February 15, 1994
|Residence||New York City, New York|
|Education||University of Wisconsin, Madison
Radcliffe College (B.A.)
University of Oxford
|Occupation||Activist Philanthropist Lobbyist Art dealer|
|Spouse(s)||Paul Reinhardt (1926–34; divorced)
Albert Lasker (1940–52; his death)
|Parents||Frank Elwin Woodard
Sara Johnson Woodard
|Awards||Presidential Medal of Freedom (1969)
Four Freedoms Award (1987)
Congressional Gold Medal (1989)
Albert Schweitzer Gold Medal for Humanitarianism (1992)
Mary Woodard Lasker (November 30, 1900 – February 21, 1994) was an American health activist and philanthropist. She worked to raise funds for medical research, and founded the Lasker Foundation.
Born in Watertown, Wisconsin, Lasker attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison and graduated from Radcliffe College with a major in Art History. Her mother, Sarah Woodard, who was an active civic leader instilled upon her the values of urban beautification while growing up.
Lasker worked as an art dealer at Reinhardt Galleries in New York City. She married the owner Paul Reinhardt. After divorcing she created a fabric company Hollywood Patterns.
Her second marriage was to Lord and Thomas advertising executive Albert Lasker until his death in the early 1950s of colon cancer. Ironically, her husband's ad agency had promoted smoking with the slogan, "L.S.M.F.T.—Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco"  back when the dangers of smoking were not well known.
With her husband, they created the Lasker Foundation in 1942 to promote medical research. The Lasker Award is considered the most prestigious American award in medical research. Eighty-one Lasker laureates have gone on to received a Nobel Prize.
Together, they were the first to apply the power of modern advertising and promotion to fighting cancer. They joined the American Society for the Control of Cancer which at the time was sleepy and ineffectual and transformed it into the American Cancer Society. The Laskers ousted the board of directors. Afterwards, they raised then record amounts of money and directed much of it to research. The American Cancer Society also fought lung cancer through prevention via anti-smoking campaigns. Using TV equal-time provisions, they were able to counter cigarette advertising with their own message. The messages were effective enough that the tobacco companies voluntarily stopped advertising on TV to prevent their broadcast.
Following her husband's death she founded the National Health Education Committee.
Lasker was prominent in helping Lyndon Johnson get Eleanor Roosevelt's endorsement to become the 1960 Democratic nominee. Lady Bird Johnson wrote about Lasker numerous times in her book A White House Diary, calling her house "charming ... like a setting for jewels" and thanking her for gifts of daffodil bulbs for parkways along the Potomac River and for thousands of azalea bushes, flowering dogwood and other plants to put along Pennsylvania Avenue.
Awards and recognition
Mary Lasker is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, the Four Freedoms Award 1987 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 1989. The Mary Woodard Lasker Award for Public Service was renamed in her honour in 2000. On May 14, 2009 the United States Postal Service honored Lasker with the issuance of a stamp of face value 78 cents, designed by Mark Summers. The stamp was released, in part, as recognition of a renewed US government commitment to funding of biomedical research. A release ceremony was held in Lasker's hometown on May 15, 2009.
- Birth Control Federation of America
- Planned Parenthood
- National Committee for Mental Hygiene
- Lasker Foundation
- National Health Education Foundation
- National Institutes of Health
- American Cancer Society
- Research to Prevent Blindness
- Cancer Research Institute
- United Cerebral Palsy Research and Education Foundation
- Museum of Modern Art
- American Heart Association
- "Wisconsin woman to appear on stamp". Associated Press. 28 February 2009.
- "Mary Woodard Lasker". Retrieved 15 February 2012.
- "The Mary Lasker Papers". Retrieved 15 February 2012.
- "The Mary Lasker Papers: Biographical Information". National Institutes of Health.
- LSMFT Lucky's Ad.
- Lasker Foundation, The Lasker Awards. Accessed 2010-11-11.
- William Talman Anti-Smoking Ad 1968.
- Joel L. Fleishman, et al. Casebook for the Foundation: A Great American Secret (2007) Page 50
- "Mary Woodard Lasker (1901-1994)". Retrieved 15 February 2012.
- Siddhartha Mukherjee (2010). The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4391-0795-9. OCLC 464593321.
- "What's New: Mary Lasker Collection Added to Profiles in Science". United States National Library of Medicine.
- United States Postal Service. "Mary Lasker".