Humanism on the Right Side of History

In this episode we take a look at our history through two individuals who expressed a humanist outlook even if they weren’t humanists as we think of today. Albert Sabin and Pauline Steinem came from poor backgrounds to accomplish renown in their time. We also look at some news for the group.

Episode 29: Humanism is on the Right Side of History

In this episode we take a look at our history through two individuals who expressed a humanist outlook even if they weren’t humanists as we think of today. Albert Sabin and Pauline Steinem came from poor backgrounds to accomplish renown in their time. We also look at some news for the group.

01:10 Pauline Perlmutter Steinem
10:33 Dr. Albert Sabin
23:34 Group News


Ohio History Connection
Ohio History Connection Facebook Page
Pauline Perlmutter Steinem
Dr. Albert Sabin
Cincinnati Polio Trial 1960

Neil Armstrong photo September 6th 1969


[Transcript also available for offline reading HERE]

Voice Over 0:02
This is Glass City Humanist, a show about humanism, humanist values by a humanist. Here is your host, Douglas Berger.

Doug Berger 0:12
In this episode, we take a look at our history through two individuals who expressed a humanist outlook. Even if they weren’t humanist as we think of today. Albert Sabin and Pauline Steinem came from poor backgrounds to accomplish renowned in their time. We also look at some news for the group.

Voice Over 0:32
Glass City Humanist is an outreach project of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie. Building community through compassion and reason for a better tomorrow. If you live in the greater Toledo, Ohio area, and are looking for a humanist community, then please check us out. You can reach our group at, or from a link on our website,

Pauline Perlmutter Steinem

Doug Berger 1:12
One of the things that I like to do is I like history. I like to read about history, I like to go to historical places, look at historical things, I really get into it. And I do some of that on Facebook. The one there’s a Facebook group called Ohio History Connection. And that is the Facebook group for the Ohio History Connection, which is our historical society here in Ohio. And from time to time, they put up photographs of historical people, events, historical items, and then talk about them. And then you can get more information. And so the other day, while I was perusing there, the group, I came across something. It was a picture of Pauline Perlmutter Steinem and I recognize the name Steinem, because Steinem, Gloria Steinem, who is a former, not former, but who was given the Humanist of the Year award many years ago, is a feminist icon who has worked on feminist issues for many, many years. And so, her last name is Steinem. So I’m like, oh, maybe she’s related. And she is Pauline Perlmutter Steinem is the grand grand mother of Gloria Steinem. And so reading about Pauline, you kind of get the sense, you know, where Gloria gets her her work in women’s issues, from Pauline, Pauline was, did her her activities in the Victorian era during the Victorian area era, things for women to do were limited. If you had money if your husband was successful and rich, usually you would join civic groups like the garden club or, or the Women’s Club or in our do charities like we’re raising money for a children’s hospital, that sort of thing. There wasn’t a lot that you that that women were allowed to do. And so Pauline Steinem did a lot of things that that women didn’t do back then and she also advocated for feminist issues at a time when feminism wasn’t, wasn’t really known. Back in the early 1900s Pauline was born in what is now Poland. She married Joseph Steinem in 1884, and came to Toledo with him. And while he built his businesses, Pauline participated in civic and social groups in Toledo. One of the interesting things in and why I really see the humanist line in in the Steinem family is that Pauline believed that the purpose of education was not to teach children that being successful meant making money, but to support the children’s emotional, mental and spiritual development. And so she led a group from different women’s organizations to form Toledo’s first summer school program in 1903. And then in 1904, she ran for a seat on Toledo school board. That was one of the few things a few occupations that women could do at this time was serve on school boards. Women had been allowed to run for school board and vote in school board elections since 1894. However, few women ran in voter turnout was usually low. And one of the reasons was that the women were harassed by men. When they tried to exercise their right to vote, they harassed the women. And they also would put the polling places in places that women generally were not allowed to go. Socially, we’re not allowed to go, that was in bars. So they would. So that would be one way of suppressing the women’s vote is have your your poll, you know, your voting area for in a bar. And so she had something to say about that. She said, and I love this quote, “if the polls are places too terrible for women to venture into, then it’s up to men to clean them up”.

Doug Berger 5:50
And when Steinem’s campaign organization received reports that there were men preventing their wives from registering to vote, they reportedly recorded names and addresses and considered pressing legal charges against men for voter intimidation, a crime punishable with monetary fines and prison time. Now, that’s something else I mean, that she’s a badass, for doing that, you know, she was threatening to, to, you know, get these men into trouble and legally if they didn’t stop harassing the women. And so that led her the with her getting on the school board and running for political office that got her involved with the the women’s movement in general the suffragists. These were the women that were trying to get the vote for women that didn’t happen till 1920. In the summer and fall of 1914, they tried to pass a Woman Suffrage amendment to the Ohio constitution. And shortly before the vote was to take place, Pauline had an article or essay published in the Toledo Blade, titled “Why I am a suffragist”. Mrs. Steinem said in this article that since men and women are all human beings, they should share the same responsibility. In response to the argument, there are things women are not meant to do. She asked, “How do we know what women can do, when we have never yet allowed them to try?” So I mean, that’s humanism right there. Believing that we’re all human beings, we’re all in this together. And we need to work together to, you know, get get this going and trying to solve problems. And, and the other part of it, too, was, you know, how do you know what women can do or can’t do, you haven’t let them try. And that’s another thing that a humanist could could get on board with. And so she eventually became president of the Ohio Women’s Suffrage Association. And so she traveled extensively in Ohio to give speeches. In 1906, she spoke about the Advancement of Women at the high school graduation ceremony in Pemberville, Ohio, which is in wood County, it’s east of Bowling Green. It’s a small town. And as it said, the three graduates that you year are all female students. And the perrysburg journal newspaper noted the affair was unprecedented. And as much as the entire program was filled by women, hmm. So so that, you know, that’s the time that that time, that’s what’s going on. She would also visit Columbus and give speeches and attend meetings. And in Columbus be in the bigger city. It would show up in the newspaper, not as front page political stuff, but on the women’s pages, the women’s fashion and household magazine page. So she might, it gives an example in this article, I read that in 1905, she was advocating for the appointment of female truant officers, and the article shared space on the page with the Dispatch’s Daily Fashion Hint. But that’s what they usually did. Then later in life, after women got the vote she still participated in in civic and social justice issues. And in the 1930s, when Jewish people were being persecuted in Nazi Germany, she used her money to help Jewish people escape. So even till to the end, she was helping people that needed that were struggling that needed help. She ended up dying at the age of 75. In 1940. Gloria Steinem was only five years old at the time, but she has been known to say that, that Pauline the stories hearing about stories about her grandmother inspired her and I can see where it inspired her to do what she does with women’s issues and, and equality and in equal rights for women. And they’re all both from Toledo. So that’s even extra special.

Voice Over 10:19
For more information about the topics in this episode, including links used, please visit the episode page at

Dr. Albert Sabin

Doug Berger 10:33
As I mentioned at the at the start of the episode, one of the things I like to do is look at history stuff. And the Ohio History Connection. One of one of the pictures they posted recently in their Facebook group, intrigued me. Not that really the picture itself, but mainly that the caption, this was a picture, fairly recognizable if you’re somebody my age, young people, younger people might not see the historical aspects of it. And what this is, is it’s a picture of it looks like a public gathering. And there’s a couple people in this picture that are showing but but here’s the caption. Well, not the caption. I’ll read the caption here in just a minute. But the guy with the hat in the white shirt there and in the middle, that is actor, comedian, Bob Hope. He is not. He’s not an Ohio native, he lived in Cleveland. That’s where he grew up. But he’s originally from he was originally from Great Britain, his family immigrated to the United States. And they ended up living in Cleveland. So yeah, he technically is an Ohio native, but that’s why he would be at this event. The other gentleman that smiling that’s next to him, that’s astronaut Neil Armstrong. And he is the one that stepped on the moon in July of 1969. And this is a picture that’s related to the moonwalk when the Apollo 11, astronauts came back, they got a ticker tape parade in New York and other places, but they also went on, I believe it was a year long publicity tour of worldwide, they went to a lot of countries, many, many countries to be to be lauded, and, and patted on the back for their accomplishment because they consider it a worldwide accomplishment. You know, they did this for the world. They didn’t do it for the United States, even though that’s kind of what it was about. It was about beating the beating the Russians. So this this picture intrigued me just because of the caption, so let me read the caption to you. Says “Bob Hope and Neil Armstrong are pictured on stage at the auglaize County Fairgrounds in this candid shot from September 6 1969. More than 80,000 supporters greeted Armstrong upon his return to Wapakoneta, Ohio after the momentous moon landing in July, Bob Hope served as grand marshal for the event. And guests included Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon, Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes and Dr. Albert Sabin”. And yes, Wapakoneta is the relative hometown. That’s where he grew up most of his childhood for Neil Armstrong. That’s where he learned to fly was in in Auglaize. County. So he always considered it home. His parents still lived there at this time in 1969. So that’s all interesting. I get it. I’ve been to Wapakoneta been to the museum, the Armstrong museum. Great. What intrigued me about this picture was the caption where it said that included Ed McMahon, Jim Rhodes, and Dr. Albert Sabin. And I’m like, Albert Sabin?, really I’m going Albert Sabin, that’s the guy that did the that did the polio vaccine. And so I had to look it up. I had to say, why was Albert Sabin at this party for Neil Armstrong? You know, what connection is it with Ohio? It didn’t take long to find out that he did his his work on developing the vaccine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. That made sense, but I really wanted to know about more about Albert Sabin. And so I did some research and wanted to share some pictures that I found a couple pictures, three pictures. And we have on the left is a picture not a current picture, because Dr. Sabin died 1993 But it was in his later years, then there was a picture of a children’s polio ward look like from the 40s, late 40s, early 50s. Those metal vessels that the children are in are called iron lungs. And for those who don’t know, polio, paralyzed you.

Doug Berger 15:24
And one of the part of the parallel being paralyzed is, is you couldn’t breathe on your own. And they didn’t have, I guess, today, it might be a ventilator, they might use a ventilator today. But back then they had this thing called iron lung and this was a vessel, the you would lay in it, they would seal it up. And it would, it worked like a piston, it would, it would vacuum out the air, so it would lift your chest, and then it would pump air back in. And it would lower it. So it was breathing for you. It was moving your chest up and down, moving your lungs up and down with pressure to move the oxygen and the thing if you didn’t have the iron lung, you wouldn’t be able to breathe and you would die eventually die. And so there would I’ve seen pictures of entire hospital wards with these iron lungs. They weren’t cheap. The the charity, March of Dimes, which got it start, you know, helping people with costs, medical costs and, and other equipment needing equipment for to treat polio. They would donate these iron lungs to families because that’s how expensive the the they were. And so if you ended up in an iron lung, it was bad. It was bad news. polio was bad news. And it’s kind of like a kind of like work kind of like how COVID-19 worked with us here in 2020/2021 is it caused a lockdown. It primarily infected children. There was some adults that got infected. The faint most famous one was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the president, he was infected in his late 20s, early 30s. But most of the time, it was children that were infected, and became paralyzed. And so people were actually afraid of this, I mean, really afraid because it was it was scary. And, and so they wouldn’t allow children to congregate, particularly in the summer months when children congregated together in the summer months. So the swimming pools and swimming holes would be closed. You couldn’t go rollerskating with your friends, you couldn’t play sports, you couldn’t play baseball, because they didn’t want kids getting together because that was one way of getting the virus as if you know, how viruses work is you’re in in with people. And it transfers to the other people that aren’t protected. Anyway. So in the 50s, Jonas Salk came up with a virus, it was a dead virus, and it would you would get injected with it. And it would cause the by body to get ready for it and prevent it prevent you from getting paralyzed what the Salk virus vaccine did not do was eradicate the virus. So So similar to how the COVID-19 vaccines work, is it would protect you from getting paralyzed. But you could still transmit the virus to somebody else who was not an who did not have protection. And so that was one of the things that that Albert Sabin wanted to work on. And one of the things and this was one of the new things that he discovered was that that the polio virus entered the body through the mouth. So either you would drink water with the virus or eat food that had virus on it, or, or you would breathe it in, it would come in through the mouth, go and it would enter the bloodstream through the intestines. And then that’s how people got sick. And that’s how you got paralyzed as if the virus entered the body through the intestines. And he had, Sabin developed a vaccine that was a mutated live vaccine, and it would erat His goal was to eradicate the virus. So he wanted to prevent it from even entering the body. So

Doug Berger 19:56
he developed this vaccine and he Went to the public health people in the United States. And they were wary of it because it was a live vaccine. They were actually concerned that it could cause polio. If If people got it, you know, they got the vaccine. So they refuse to allow trials to be done in the United States. So what Albert Sabin did was he went to the Soviet Union, and this is in the 60s, this is during the Cold War. And they did the trials for him or along with him, and found the virus, the vaccine to be safe and effective. And none of the bad stuff that was thought to that was going to happen happened. And so millions of doses were given out for free and worked. So then he comes back to the public serve United States Public Health Service, and they say, okay, you can do a trial. The trial that he did was in the city of Cincinnati, and he vaccinated all of the children in the city of Cincinnati, in 1960. And that’s what this thing is protect your preschool children free Sabin polio vaccine, and what it was was a spoonful of syrup, cherry flavored syrup with a couple drops of the vaccine in it. And what they found out was, after all of the children in the city of Cincinnati, were vaccinated with Saban’s vaccine, it eradicated polio. In the city of Cincinnati, it no longer existed. people no longer got sick, and it wasn’t even in your body. And so that was added to the arsenal. So you had the Salk vaccine, that was the dead vaccine, and then you had Sabin with the mutated live vaccine. So that also reminded me of how we’ve been in on the COVID. Because the COVID vaccines Moderna, and Pfizer are made differently than most vaccines are, it’s a totally different mRNA built vaccine, which is equivalent to what Sabin did with his vaccine by making it out of a live one, although it was genetically engineered. So in and so he was the toast of the town, he eradicated polio. And now, pretty much polio is eradicated in the United States, because of Albert Sabin. And so that’s why he would be at an event for Neil Armstrong in 1969. It makes perfect sense. Because he is a great Ohioan even though he’s not an Ohio native, and we should be proud that that one of the scourges of childhood in in those in that time was dealt with by somebody from Ohio. And it just, it just amazed me, I that was something new that I had learned that I did not know No, no before. And so I just wanted to pass that on.

Voice Over 23:26
This is Glass City Humanist.

Group News

Doug Berger 23:34
Before we wrap up the episode today, I just wanted to give you some group news. As you know, this podcast is an outreach of the Secular Humanists of Western Lake Erie, right here. And and so one of the things that we did was we got a grant from the American Humanist Association, towards this podcast and one of the things that I want to do with it is what you’re seeing right now, this this right here the video. I apologize for me, you know, probably wish, if I could get that dark web thing going with Tom Cruise, Tom Cruise would be talking to you instead of me. I apologize in advance. But basically, what I’ve been wanting to do is move to a video first recording. And basically what that means is, instead of just doing the audio and putting it together and put it out there is we would do a video, like we’re doing, do the edits, get it all ready to go. Then take out the audio and publish that as the audio portion of the podcast. And I’ve been wanting to do that for a while. Hopefully it helps us get guests that want to be on so we could talk to more people and Green Screen, I’ve been having problems with this green screen today, I apologize for that. Some technical issues like you can see, still working on it still learning. And so we’re going to do that with the grant money. Try to do that. So basically, what you’ll do is you’ll find this video part on our YouTube page at a certain point. The other thing is we had our first our group had our first indoor in person meeting just a couple weeks ago, on September 11. at the Mott library branch here in Toledo, we only had eight people show up, which is cool. We I perfectly understand people that are still hesitant to meet indoors, well, I even had a member send me an email saying, you know, I’d love to come but you know, we can’t, we’re not going indoors or anything I get that. So, you know, it was we had eight people were all masked, it’s a requirement yet, we have to be all masked. And we also tried to do some social distancing in the small room that we did have. So far, so good, I haven’t heard any buddy, get it getting ill or anything. So that’s good. There will be another chance October the ninth, we will have another in person meeting. This time, we’ll have an outside speaker. And it’s going to be Megan Rahm, or Rahm, hopefully I probably mispronounced her name. She is a poet lives here in Toledo. She title of her talk is going to be “Poems and Tales from a Heathen Mommy”. She is a passionate atheist from rural rural Ohio. And she’s she likes to tell her story of struggles and triumphs through poetry. So I think it’ll be a good time. So I hope you’ll be able to join us for that. And also, we’re going to have a members only meeting via zoom in on October the 22nd. And that’s the time that we tell people how we did financially and, and program wise for the past year. And then we also elect our board of directors, we have five seats open eligible for election. So if you’re interested in being on serving on our board of directors, and one of the requirements is you do have to be a voting member, which means you pay dues. So if you have done that, or you want to do that, contact me use the contact form on our website. Let me know that you’re interested. We’ll get you set up. We do the elect we’ll do the elections probably at the beginning of the month. And we’ll do that online as well. It really worked out for us well last year. And hopefully we’ll get some people that want to help guide this group into the next year and and we’ll take it from there.

Transcript is created by machine and is approximate to what was recorded

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Written, produced, and edited by Douglas Berger and he is entirely responsible for the content. Incidental voice overs by Shawn Meagley

The GCH theme is “Glass City Jam” composed using Ampify Studio

This episode by Glass City Humanist is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.