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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Woman with the Cure

1. Polio touched everyone’s lives in the decades that it reigned. Do you have family stories or personal recollections of the polio years?

2. Magazines, radio and television reinforced traditional roles for women during the polio era. Think about some examples of television shows or ad campaigns from your youth that promoted the “ideal” woman. What are current examples in which contemporary media shapes our perception of women? Apply this thinking to a popular television series.

3. Examine the sacrifices made by the individual women in each lead-in chapter. Which of these women resonated with you the most?

4. Do you think Dorothy was right to end the relationship with Arne? What do you think their lives would have looked like if they’d stayed together?

5. Dorothy could not see her mother for who she was until Dorothy was far into adulthood. What important self-discoveries have you made only after having lived into adulthood?

6. As a reader, when did you understand Dorothy’s mother’s importance to Dorothy’s success? How did her father contribute to building Dorothy’s character? Who in your life has contributed to making you who you are, in quiet, easily unnoticeable ways?

7. In Denmark, Bente points out to Dorothy that all humankind is connected and that we’d be kinder if we only realized this. What is a way in which we are connected that we usually don’t take time to realize?

8. The author states in the essay above: “What woman, even in young adulthood, isn’t acutely aware of the choices she must make in balancing career, family, love and personal interests? Oh, sure, we can have it all, but in what proportions?” At what age were you first aware that you had to make choices? What choices did you make? Any regrets?

9. What parallels can be drawn from the polio years and recent COVID-19 pandemic times? Did you find yourself reflecting on these recent years and making any connections to your experiences while reading?

10. In the book, Sister Kenny states, “We are what we have willed ourselves to be, whether we realize it or not.” Do you believe that there is some truth to this?

The Woman with the Cure
by Lynn Cullen