I hadn’t thought about the children that I knew who had polio when I was in primary school until I became involved in this project. I can remember two of them though – one a very pretty little girl who got around the playground with leg irons that were attached to heavy looking boots. The other girl was not so very severely affected, but was told to do a lot of swimming, so she became a member of the local junior swim club team and trained after school.
The other very vivid memory I have is of a picture in the paper of a lady in an iron lung. I couldn’t understand how she could live a life like that and still have a smile on her face.
These reflections reminded me of being in a ward of the Childrens Hospital to visit my own young son many years ago and seeing other parents there with their sick children. One, a man in work overalls, talking quietly to his child. The other, a very well dressed man in a business suit, waving a toy in the air to try to amuse his child. I was struck by the fact that a sick child was such a leveler – no amount of money or prestige had any importance, they were both just anxious fathers.
My background includes studies in Visual Arts as part of my B. Ed. teaching qualification, and further certificate courses in Textile Arts and more recently in Millinery. I love the materials that are used to make hats – they are quite sculptural – and so have used sinamay, petersham and a feather to dress my figure.
Little Soldier refers to the courage of children who were affected by polio in their young lives, and those that suffered other serious diseases also. They didn’t have any strong armour to wear or deadly weapons to use against their illnesses. Surviving must have depended on the inner strength of those children, the love of their families and the skill of the medical staff who looked after them. I expect that strength must again be called upon by those who are now enduring the late effects of polio.
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Please click on the picture below to see more photographs and a video of Margaret’s “Touched by Polio” art work