History Book

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, January 21st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: the WORLD Radio History Book. Thirty-five years ago today, the birth of the big-budget Superbowl commercial.

Plus, 20 years ago, an Australian missionary serving in India is martyred.

EICHER: And 170 years ago, a first in American medical history. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: We begin today with January 23rd, 1849. The Geneva Medical College in New York, awards Elizabeth Blackwell a medical degree, making her the first female doctor in the United States. Historian Dennis Denenberg from a 2007 presentation:

DENENBERG: And the neighbor said to her: “Elizabeth, I don’t think I would be dying if I had a female doctor in whom I could confide. Elizabeth, promise me you’ll become a doctor.”

Two physician brothers privately trained Blackwell in medicine. When she started applying to medical schools, she met resistance at nearly every turn.

DENENBERG: Ten rejection letters came. Twenty came—are you going to write number 21? Elizabeth did. Twenty-seven rejection letters, but she preserved.

But she finally found a college in New York willing to admit her, though some faculty at Geneva Medical College thought her application was a joke. However, she went on to graduate at the top of her class.

In 1857 Blackwell opened the New York Infirmary for Women. She later moved to England and opened the London School of Medicine for Women in 1874.

She was active in many Christian reform movements, including the fight against prostitution. She didn’t approve of contraception and promoted sexual purity and hygiene education. She never married, but was satisfied knowing she had improved the lives of many women and men through her work as as a doctor, speaker, and author. She died in 1910 at age 89.

Next, January 22nd, 1984. With just under seven minutes left to play in Super Bowl 18, CBS broadcasts one of the most iconographic television commercials of the 20th century, directed by Ridley Scott.

COMMERCIAL: Today we celebrate the first glorious anniversary…

The ad opens with an Orwellian-inspired setting. A mass of gray-clad, nearly lifeless humans march in time towards a video megatron. As the projected dictator shouts slogans and propaganda, the scene cuts to riot police chasing a woman running toward the screen: she’s carrying a sledgehammer.

The action cuts back and forth between the two scenes until the climactic moment when the woman hurls the hammer at the screen, setting the mesmerized throng free.

COMMERCIAL: On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce “Macintosh.”

Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson appeared in a 2016 NFL films production about the commercial.

ISAACSON: Steve Jobs believed that the computer would empower the individual, and that to him was what the Macintosh computer was all about, and that is why he loved the 1984 ad.

The commercial was supposed to run twice during the football game, but when Apple’s board of directors previewed it, they hated it. They demanded Jobs pull it from the Super Bowl lineup. He reluctantly canceled one of the airings, but kept the other…and big-budget Super Bowl advertising was born.

And finally, January 22nd, 1999, 20 years ago this week. Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons, 10-year old Philip and 6-year old Timothy, are burned alive in their car. A violent Hindu mob stormed the vehicle while Staines and the boys slept. They tried to escape the burning station wagon but were prevented by the attackers.

Widow Gladys Staines spoke to the Associated Press a few days later outside the funeral.

STAINES: As we have come to know the cruelty with which this took place, I am deeply saddened.

For more than 15 years before the murder, Graham and Gladys Staines treated lepers in remote India. Local religious leaders accused them of forced conversions and undermining tribal traditions. After her husband’s death, Gladys and her daughter Esther committed to staying in India to carry on the work:

In 2005, the government of India awarded Gladys Staines the Padma Shri, one of the highest civilian awards in India. With the money, she transformed the leper house into a full hospital.


A new feature film based on the Staines’ story is coming out later this spring from Skypass Entertainment. “The Least of These” stars Stephen Baldwin and Shari Rigby as Graham and Gladys Staines.

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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