Dancing in my Dreams:
Confronting the Spectre of Polio
By Kerry Highley
“Kerry Highley’s often harrowing account is thoroughly researched and well-written… Part medical history part social history, this book should find a broad readership among those who enjoy quality Australian nonfiction… Dancing in My Dreams should be required reading for the anti-vaccination crowd.”
— Dave Martus, Books+Publishing, 1 October 2015.
Across most of the world, an entire generation has lived free from the spectre of polio, but for fifty years during the twentieth century that fear was overwhelming. Polio became every parent’s worst nightmare, and panic drove rational people to do bizarre things to protect their children. Survivors of the disease often found that they faced a world unfriendly to their disability.
How to treat polio survivors generated a rift between the medical community and its recommendations and the approaches of those advocating alternative therapies for the paralysed body. In pre-Second World War Australia, two women symbolised this split. In her clinics in Australia, England, North America and Canada, Sister Elizabeth Kenny championed and practised a treatment diametrically opposed to the widely used ‘orthodox’ approach of Victorian Dr Jean Macnamara. In Australia, the public’s reverence of the medical profession entrenched her approach until well after most Western countries had abandoned it.
Dancing in My Dreams details the disease of polio and its treatment, the scientific endeavour that led to the discovery of the poliovirus, and the studies in virology and immunology that culminated in the production of a polio vaccine. It highlights the experiences of patients and the voices of survivors, revealing how ethnicity, class, age and gender all mediated an individual’s reaction to having polio, which included fear, rejection, denial and anger.
About Kerry Highley
Kerry Highley worked in medical laboratory science for many years before returning to University in 2000 to study history. In 2009 she received her PhD in the History of Medicine from the Australian National University for her thesis on the polio epidemics in Australia. While at the ANU, she tutored in Second World War studies and the History of Terrorism, and retired in 2011 to work on Dancing in My Dreams. Apart from polio, her research interests include the history of the Australian Army Medical Corps in the First World War.
For media inquiries, please contact our Marketing Coordinator, Sarah Cannon.
While many of our books are published online for free, this does not mean that the books are in the 'public domain': copyright laws do still apply.
Copyright for all material published on this site is owned or licensed exclusively to Monash University Publishing. All rights reserved. Apart from any uses permitted by Australia's Copyright Act 1968, no part of this book may be reproduced by any process or in any form without prior written permission of the copyright owners. Inquiries should be directed to the publisher, Monash University Publishing.
Readers are free to read, copy, download, print and display a work provided that:
• this is solely for personal use or use within the reader’s organisation;
• full acknowledgement is made of the author/s and the original copyright owner;
• the work is not used for any commercial gain in any form; and
• the reader in no way alters, transforms or builds on the work outside of its use in normal academic scholarship without the express permission of the author and publisher of the publication in question.
In all cases of re-use or distribution, readers or authors must make clear to others the license terms of the work. Enquiries should be directed to Monash University Publishing.
Authors of Monash University Publishing titles are not permitted to publish these works on any website other than their personal sites, without written permission from the publisher. Authors are encouraged to post the title of their book on any website and post links on any site that direct readers to the Monash University Publishing site.
Every effort has been made to obtain copyright permissions for the images reproduced in our publications. If you are a copyright owner of materials reproduced in one of our works and have concerns regarding their use please contact Monash University Publishing.