Incomplete Embryos in a Metal Womb


Children in an iron lung before the advent of the polio vaccination. Many children lived for months in these machines, though not all survived, 1937. courtesy All Proud Americans

“There was a tremendous psychological element at work in all of us in our relationship to the lung. The metal respirator assumed an almost animate personality and became a symbol of protection and security…. We were incomplete embryos in a metal womb.” —Larry Alexander, 1954

9 Comments Add yours

    1. It’s so hard when living fairly comfortable lives to really imagine the suffering people have gone through. Can you imagine what the parents went through?


  1. So sad,even though some of them made it out. I can’ imaging what that was like for them.


    1. In the left hand corner of the photo there seems to be a drawing of some kind, maybe to amuse the little girl? I wonder if they had a radio at least.


  2. Clanmother says:

    These were brave children!


    1. There’s a certain type of bravery saved for when there’s nothing else you can do. It’s amazing the things you imagine you could never do, you do when you’re very sick. It helps if you have nice doctors and nurses like the one in the picture 🙂 I really hope this batch of kids mad it through. Polio is so scary.


      1. Clanmother says:

        One of my mother’s friends was in an iron lung. She used to visit him – very difficult for everyone. We have made great strides in medicine – I’m thankful to all those who work tirelessly in the field of medicine….


      2. Me too! On a number of occasions doctors and nurses have saved my life. I’m so in awe of them.


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