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FDR and The Secret of his Paralysis

As we discussed in our bonus episode on polio, FDR suffered from paralysis in his legs due to polio. At the time of his infection, he was a rising politician and didn’t let polio or paralysis stop him. Unfortunately, he went to great pains to hide his differently-abled body instead of showing the world that you can be in a wheelchair AND be President of the United States.

FDR would not allow photographs or film be taken of him in his wheelchair, being helped in or out of a car, or struggling to walk (he had developed a method using leg braces, a cane, and holding onto another person in order to walk when he needed). But in this rare footage from the 1935 White House Easter egg roll, FDR walks out to greet the guests. It is theorized that because of the large crowd, the secret service did not spot Fred Hill who was filming that day. Otherwise, they would have seized the camera and film.

The White House footage begins around the 1 minute mark and FDR walks out soon after.