History Book

NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD Radio History Book.

Today, the accidental scientific discovery that ended up saving thousands of lives. Plus, 50 years ago, the pilot episode of a new approach to television news.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: But first, we remember a Christian educator who leveraged the power of women to tackle social challenges.  Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin today with September 28th, 1839, in the small town of Churchville—a few miles west of Rochester, New York. Daughter Frances Elizabeth is born to minister Josiah Willard and his wife, Mary Hill, a former school teacher. Mary educates Frances at home—with the Scriptures as the center of her studies.

At age 18, Frances Willard attends a Methodist school for women in Evanston, Illinois. She graduates in 18-59 and becomes a sought-after educator—teaching in Pennsylvania and New York. In 1874 she leaves higher education and joins the young temperance movement in Chicago.

Sarah Ward is former President of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union:

WARD: They arrived at the first saloon and they asked to come in. Some of the saloon keepers were so embarrassed, they said: “No, you can’t come in.” So the women knelt in the snow and prayed and begged them to close. And the men’s conscience were pricked and they did.

Frances Willard was one of the founding members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, or WCTU. She served as its second president for nearly 20 years. Under her leadership the temperance organization grew to the largest women’s association in the 19th century. Willard urged Christian women to protect their homes by fighting against any social ill that threatened their families: The greatest blight of her day was the saloon.

WARD: So women were the ones suffering the most. The men were drinking, they were causing the abuse on the families. The families had no place to turn. They weren’t being cared for.

Willard is most remembered for her stand against alcohol abuse and its devastating effects on the home, but she also advocated for suffrage, education and labor reforms, as well as anti-lynching laws.

WARD: She was a great visionary. She had the special talents and uniqueness that God gave her that came together and made her such a strong leader.

Frances E. Willard, died of influenza in 1898. Before her funeral, 20-thousand mourners passed by her casket at the WCTU headquarters in downtown Chicago.

Next, September 28th, 1928. While studying how substances in human tears ward off disease, Scottish bacteriologist Alexander Fleming notices something peculiar in one of his bacteria cultures. This 1964 British educational film tells the story.

FILM: In one of the glass dishes, Fleming noticed that some mold, had begun to grow—a spoiled experiment. But with mind alerted by the earlier work on protected substances, he looked closer. He saw that near to the mold, no germs were growing.

Fleming postulates the mold must produce a material capable of destroying germs. He names it penicillin, though none of his later experiments yield a stable or pure enough result to treat human infections.

More than a decade later, during World War 2, two British scientists develop a technique for purification and extraction, making mass production possible.

FILM: Penicillin was now for the world. Everywhere, curing the sick, everywhere saving lives.  

And finally, 50 years ago today, September 24th, 1968:

REASONER: Good evening. This is 60-minutes. Kind of a magazine for television. Which means it has the flexibility and diversity of a magazine, adapted to broadcast journalism.

That’s CBS journalist Harry Reasoner explaining the idea of a television variety news program. His co-host is Mike Wallace, who would go on to be the most recognizable face of the program for more than 4 decades.  

WALLACE: And if this broadcast does what we hope it’ll do. It’ll report reality.

Over the years, other memorable correspondents include Ed Bradley, Dan Rather, Lesley Stahl, and Andy Rooney:

ROONEY: There’s a four-letter word that Americans love more than any other word in the English language…and the word is free…

Since its start in 1968, 60 Minutes’ hard-hitting interviews, celebrity and political profiles, as well as it’s investigative journalism have earned 145 Emmy Awards, and many other recognitions.    

CLOSING: I’m Morley Safer, I’m Dan Rather, I’m Mike Wallace. We’ll be back next week with another edition of 60 Minutes [Tick, tick, tick].

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book, I’m Paul Butler.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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