What Will You Do When the Flu Comes? - 1919
St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on Duty During October 1918 Influenza Epidemic. Photograph shows mask-wearing women holding stretchers at backs of ambulances. Library of Congress # 2011661525. GGA Image ID # 1501b49cff
About a year ago there was report of the approach of a vessel on which there were several cases of a disease that had been ravaging the Old World for months.
Some persons thought that these sufferers should be excluded and their fellow passengers quarantined, but those in authority in such matters were reported to have said that the disease would amount to nothing in this country, that its startling toll abroad was owing, not to its virulence, but to the weakened condition of the people there, due to war privations.
So, as report has it, there was no effort made to stop the influenza at our front door. The result is common knowledge, as is the fact that any hope of immunity because of a robust physical condition was apparently a false one.
Men in the prime of life and vigor died as quickly as the weaklings. Army camps that might have resisted a Hun division could not fight off this invader, whose responsibility for a half million deaths in the whole country is clearly established. There is no graveyard that is not more thickly populated because of the coming of this unwelcome visitor.
Medical authorities say that we must look for a return of the influenza this year. At the same time they tell us that they know little more about it than they did a year ago, when it caught them off their guard, hampered by lack of numbers and by proper nursing facilities.
The advice this year is first of all to keep in as good physical condition as possible, for while robust health did not confer immunity in thousands of cases there is nevertheless some protection against all diseases in the mere fact of being well.
In the next place make preparation for the proper care of every sufferer. The nurses are home from France, the doctors are on the job again, there is no excuse for anyone's dying for lack of care, as thousands died last year.
The thing to do, then, is for some organization in every community to lay plan; to meet the first appearance of the disease with the most efficient attack that medical science and business sense can devise.
Any community that had one death last year suffered an economic loss of at least $5000. A tithe of that will prepare a community of 5000 people to do its part in keeping the flu from again becoming epidemic.
A Word to Women of Legal Age
If the Constitution did not cover the land New York City need never be thirsty. To the north it is but a step into Connecticut; to the west a five-minute ride by ferry or a two-minute ride by tube brings the traveler into New Jersey. These two states were among the three that refused to ratify the prohibition amendment.
That is perfectly understandable and their right, but if and when they assume that they are immune from the provisions of the amendment they are wrong and foolish.
In New Jersey one candidate for governor is running on a platform in which opposition to prohibition is one of the leading planks. The acting governor, a candidate for the regular election, in announcing the principles for which he stands, made a statement that should be read and pondered over in every voting district in the nation, for the fact that prohibition is a part of the law of the land is everywhere being juggled with by those who see in the unsettled sentiment concerning the rightness or wrongness of prohibition a chance for political preferment for themselves.
Said Governor Runyon: "No act of mine as Governor, nor any act of the Legislature during my term, can write out of the United States Constitution what has been written in it before the next Governor of New Jersey takes his oath of office.
That oath will be, among other things, to support the Constitution of the United States. No ambition, no lure of office, however great, can cause me to take that oath with a mental reservation not to keep it.
"The problem is one, not of prohibition or non-prohibition, but of respect for the fundamental law of the land. Our American Government cannot permanently endure if those seeking power and authority can acquire it through promise, direct or implied, not to enforce the laws. It is certain that Federal agencies will take supervision and control of the enforcement of the constitutional amendment; but if there be any issue involved, and that issue be enforcement of law, I will respect my oath of office in this, as in all other matters."
The issue is clear cut. The man or party that seeks votes on a platform declaring opposition to prohibition is offering to help tear down the Constitution. We have, as a union of states, agreed to abide by the will of the majority.
By the will of the majority the public sale of alcoholic beverages is a crime. To promise not to punish violations of this law is to pledge oneself to disregard one's oath of office, to break the law of the whole land, which, in matters that have been declared, supersedes the law of the state. We commend this thought to the women of America, those who are so soon to be voters as well as those who now exercise that right.
The Third Red Cross Rollcall
THE Greatest Mother in the World will soon again call the roll of her followers and supporters. We have not heard how large she estimates this number to be, but we do know that when the roll-call is ended—on the anniversary of the day the guns ceased firing—she hopes to have the name of every man and woman who cares the least little bit that somebody else is in trouble or sick or hungry and needs a helping hand.
Your name authorizes her to extend that hand—which the war proved so strong and competent and warm—to anyone who may need it, in your town and in mine, and in all the other towns in America.
It will not be mistaken support, your giving your name to the Red Cross, for the tide of discouragement and sickness and want is running high, even here where you may think that every man has all he needs.
That never was true of any land or time, and today the Red Cross finds more to do than it can possibly do unless the American people stand loyally by and finance the work.
There are some obligations still to be met in Europe, particularly in little, brave, but helpless Serbia, but the Red Cross is now looking mostly to the future and the needs that must be met by its Home Service Department.
The thought that the Red Cross exists only for emergency relief in war and disaster must be superseded now by that other one that conceived her as a great mother.
To a mother a sick child is as dear as one wounded in battle; wounds, we hope, are past and done with, but sickness there will always be.
The Greatest Mother wants to be able to go to every ailing child that needs her, telling the doctor and the milkman to go, too. She wants to be able to go to the hard-pressed mother, easing her burden a little.
She wants to be able to go to motherless little ones, offering homes and care, and to the husband and father, offering the comfort that a helping hand brings.
She wants to be able to go to the young man or woman contracting tuberculosis and say: "Son, Daughter, this is no place for you.
Come out into the sunlight."
She wants to be able to do for mankind, in your name, all the things a mother does for her children, does lovingly and unselfishly. If you will authorize her to do this, answer to your name sometime between November 2 and 11.
If the name is on a thank-offering and good-will check it will be so much the better.
William Frederick Bigelow, "What Will You Do When the Flu Comes?" in Good Housekeeping, New York: International Magazine Company, Vol. LXIX, No. 4, October 1919, p. 8