Looking Back to the Flu Epidemic, 1918

Apparently not everyone was on lockdown during the influenza epidemic of 1918.  I found these images on one of my favorite website, the Digital Public Library of America. All kinds of institutions collected photos of the epidemic. The three I’ve chosen all were taken by the War Department in the fall of 1918.

These photos show women out to work in public, some with jobs they had probably had before the war, like elevator operators.  Others were filling places made possible by the conflict, like “conductresses” and military drivers.

It is interesting to see the different safety precautions—all in masks, but only some with gloves. 

Fashion was probably not the first thing on their minds, but it is interesting to see the different skirts lengths in late 1918.  Some are quite long, but one of young “conductresses” seems to have had a sense of the way things would be moving soon.

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2 Responses to Looking Back to the Flu Epidemic, 1918

  1. Katrina B says:

    I read that Grace Cathedral in SF has closed for only the second time in history – the first being the 1918 flu epidemic. I find it fascinating to watch this unfold as history repeats itself (although hopefully not the number of deaths!).

  2. bellneice says:

    For your entertainment, my Spanish flu mystery. Names may have been changed to protect the innocent.
    The story my mother was always told was that Aunt Sarah (her mother’s sister) died in the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918. My mother also said that something was wrong with her, like she was mentally slow or emotionally disturbed, but the story was very nonspecific. My mother never met Aunt Sarah, these stories just floated down to her, and then to me.
    By the time we found out that that Aunt Sarah really didn’t die in 1918, everyone who could have told us the truth was dead. We don’t know who knew that she really wasn’t dead, except that her burial and grave was paid for by her mother who was living with another daughter at that time. Those two at least, had to know.
    Aunt Sarah was buried under the a different name in 1930. I remember seeing the paperwork that said her mother (who was still alive) paid for the plot and marker, and that the body was transported from a local town.

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