Dr. Pearl Kendrick (1890-1980) and Dr. Grace Eldering (1900-1988) developed the first successful whooping cough vaccine in 1938. In the photo above, Dr. Kendrick is pictured on the left, and Dr. Eldering is pictured on the right. The photo is copyright 1993 by the Michigan Women’s Studies Association. (Click Michigan Women’s Studies Association to learn more about the MWSA.)
Dr. Kendrick and Dr. Eldering began working on a whooping cough vaccine in the early 1930’s. Kendrick, a Grand Rapids native, was chief of the Michigan Department of Health’s Western Branch Laboratory. Eldering worked for the Michigan Department of Health in Lansing. Working together, they conducted lab experiments and field tests, centering their research on the Grand Rapids area. Eventually, they were confident that they had learned enough to begin inoculating area children. The results proved successful. In 1940, the State of Michigan began producing and distributing the new vaccine. During the previous decade, whooping cough caused an annual average of 6,000 American deaths (Most victims were children under the age of five.). Kendrick’s and Eldering’s vaccine virtually eliminated all fatalities. Later, the two improved on their work by creating the DPT shot. The DPT shot combined the inoculations for diptheria, whooping cough (or “pertussis”) and tentanus into a single shot.
The Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame web site served as a source for this article. Click Pearl Kendrick to access the site’s Kendrick biography and Grace Eldering to access its Eldering one. The names of all Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame inductees are listed on the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame web site. Click Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame to access this site.
Individuals are also encouraged to visit the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame building in Lansing. Exhibits display the achievements and contributions of Michigan women – today and throughout the state’s history. Click Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame for more information on the facility.
The Archives of Michigan houses a Grace Eldering manuscript collection (MS 88-268.). The collection contains forty years of correspondence from Eldering to Pearl, as well as published articles and memorabilia on Eldering. A Michigan Department of Public Health accession (RG 87-37) contains a video taped interview with the two doctors.