Women Who Pioneered the Whooping Cough Vaccine Are Immortalized in Sculpture

We covered the story of Loney Clinton Gordon during Black History Month. Recently, the Grand Rapids Community Legends Project in Michigan unveiled a sculpture dedicated to Ms. Clinton Gordon and the two other women involved in the development of the whooping cough vaccine. From an article on MLive.com:

“The sculpture titled “Adulation: The Future of Science,” features scientists Pearl Kendrick and Grace Eldering with their research assistant Loney Clinton Gordon. In an adjacent sculpture, gazing up at the public health legends, are two children.

The women are featured prominently at the Michigan State University Research Center, 400 Monroe Ave. NW. The sculpture, the work of Jay Hall Carpenter, fittingly faces Michigan Street – known as the Medical Mile.

“In 1932, 6,000 people died from whooping cough and it served as a call to action for three amazing women to say we have to do something about this,’’ Norman Beauchamp, dean of MSU’s College of Human Medicine, told around 100 gathered at MSU for the dedication.

“These three individuals in a setting of barriers, lack of resources and lack of time – they weren’t stopped. They had a sense of urgency. If we look at our nation with all the challenges we face now, we want you to know that we have that same sense of urgency as a community.’’”

The article continues:

“In the 1940s, Loney Clinton Gordon, an African American woman with a chemistry degree from MSU, joined their research team and isolated the virulent strain of pertussis that allowed the team to eventually develop an even more effective vaccine.

Proud family members and the children and siblings of those who worked with the scientists nodded and smiled as they listened to speakers recount the women’s accomplishments. When the sculpture was unveiled, they were clearly excited and moved.”

Tara Smith, PhD, was kind enough to share the following photographs from the unveiling event.

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Author: René F. Najera, DrPH

I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, an online project by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. All opinions expressed on these blog posts are not necessarily those of the College or any of my employers. Check out my professional profile on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/renenajera Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen

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