Date: April 1st, 2002
Florence Stephenson Mahoney has spent most of her adult years as an advocate for good health for all. Currently 102 years old, Mrs. Mahoney can proudly say that she played a key role in reshaping federal government priorities. During the three decades after World War II, Mrs. Mahoney worked tirelessly to encourage the federal government to allocate money for biomedical research. She was astonishingly successful. The legacy of her efforts today is the greatest biomedical research aggregation in the world - the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
President Truman described Ms. Mahoney and her fellow health advocate Mary Lasker as "the most tireless, consistent and effective crusaders" he had ever known.
Five decades later, President Clinton called Mrs. Mahoney "one of the great citizens of this nation." The "National Institutes of Health are practically a monument to Florence Mahoney and Mary Lasker, two great Americans," he said.
Mahoney is particularly known for her dedicated efforts in shaping national health science policy with respect to aging. One of her greatest achievements was her almost single-handed campaign to establish an Institute on Aging within the NIH in the early 1970's. President Nixon, members of this administration, and bio-medical interest groups opposed her, but Mrs. Mahoney persisted. She finally prevailed with Congress, and despite presidential efforts to kill the bill twice, the institute came into being in 1974, inaugurating a new era of research in the field of gerontology and health issues related to aging.
A biography of the life of Florence Mahoney has recently been published. The book, "Noble Conspirator: Florence Mahoney and the Rise of the National Institutes of Health" by Judith Robinson, is a wonderful account of an extraordinary life and journey. A copy of the book can be order through this link.
Mrs. Mahoney's interests in science and health are many and varied. An unfaltering advocate of the National Institutes of Health, throughout her life she has championed the growth of research in cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis, and mental illness. She has served as a member of numerous boards and commissions, including the National Community Committee on Mental Health; the Lasker Foundation; the National Advisory Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases Council; the President's Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke; and the National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council.