The American Cancer Society was first organized in 1913. At that time 15 doctors and businessman in New York City got together to create what was then called the American Society for the Control of Cancer (ASCC.) In that time in history it was not considered appropriate to mention the word ‘cancer’ in public. Information concerning this illness was cloaked in a climate of fear and denial. At the same time, over 75,000 people died each year of cancer in just the United States. The most important item on the founders’ agenda was to raise awareness of this illness, before any other progress could be made in funding research. Therefore a frenetic writing campaign was undertaken to educate doctors, nurses, patients and family members about cancer. Articles were written for popular magazines and professional journals. They also undertook to publish their own journal, Campaign Notes, which was a monthly bulletin with information about cancer. They also recruited doctors from all over the United States to help educate the public about cancer.
Marjorie Illig was an ASCC field representative in 1936. She suggested creating a large network of new volunteers whose purpose was to wage “war on cancer.” In 1935 there were 15,000 people involved in cancer control in the U.S. By 1938 there was ten times that number. The Women’s Field Army, those volunteers working on behalf of the ASCC were responsible for this increase more than anything else.