Rebecca Sebar: The Price of a Pint of Blood
In the July of 1949 the names Rebecca and Albert Sebar made headlines because of their heartbreaking story. The Sebar siblings’ parents immigrated from Turkey and resided in the Bronx. Rebecca, just five years old, had been diagnosed with leukemia and needed blood transfusions every day. Her brother Albert, barely an adult at the age of eighteen, would donate blood as often as he could and convinced his friends to donate as well. He would also spend all the money he had on blood for their little girl. When the donations and money depleted, Albert, along with his friend Emanuel Buffa, resorted to crime to save his sister. They were arrested after breaking into a stationary store on March 24th, 1949. However, the judge had compassion after hearing their story and did not charge the young men. Rebecca died soon after on June 30th, a life cut short, and was laid to rest in Mount Hebron.
This tragedy was able to happen because the poor did not have equal access to health care in New York city in the 1940’s. During the early 20th century in New York lower income families often went without aid, as many upper class people viewed it as the poor’s fault for their bad conditions and lack of health. Many people in the early 20th century demanded reform and grassroot organizations began forming. However, in the FDR’s new deal it did not address universal health care, as the president chose to focus on other economic problems of the Great Depression, like social security. Marginalized groups and the poor had very little access to healthcare and the inequality only began being addressed in the 60’s and 70’s, twenty years too late to help Rebecca.
Since there was no universal health care in America, Albert and Emanuel had to result to violence in order to keep Rebecca alive. The Sebar’s tragic story is the very real repercussions of the way poor people were treated and ignored in the early twentieth century.
Davis, Karen. “Inequality and Access to Health Care.”
Hoffman, Beatrix. “Health care reform and social movements in the United States.”
~Blog Written by Elisheva Schuster