Polio Place

A service of Post-Polio Health International


The Reluctant Poster Child

Elaine Burns; Age 5, 1957; Boston, Massachusetts

I remember the day that this photo was taken. I was probably five years old. I was being considered for the March of Dimes Poster Child. I’m not sure if it was on a local or national level.

The family folklore is that I was not chosen because my teeth were not perfect. I allegedly had been given some sort of medication that had affected my baby teeth.

I recognize the expression on my face to be quite cynical. I did quite a few local photo shoots for the March of Dimes and I always felt uncomfortable and somewhat used. My mother felt that since the March of Dimes was paying for my medical care, we needed to cooperate. The one time that she said “no” was when they wanted to set me up, in an iron lung, at a large train station and solicit money.

I remember one time having to go to a fashion show and collect a check for the March of Dimes on stage. I was so embarrassed going through the dressing room and seeing the models in various stages of dress and undress. Also, there was a large many-tiered cake on stage with me, but after handing over the check I was whisked off stage and had to leave without a piece of cake.

I attended a school for disabled children and, once again, was always being chosen for publicity shoots. I specifically remember trying to sneak out the back door of the auditorium, as the local paper was there for photos of the disabled kids at Christmas. Even so, I was spotted and put in the photo. I remember worrying that my classmates wouldn’t like me if I was always the chosen one.....not that I had anything to say about it!


View All Artifacts

Back to Top