Author: John Conte



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Core Question:
How did the influenza outbreak after World War I affect Americans at home?


Author: John Conte

School: Mark T. Sheehan High School

District: Wallingford
Overview:

In this lesson students will examine the influenza epidemic of 1918 and the impact it had on Americans on the home front during World War I. Near the end of the war in Europe in 1918 an outbreak of the influenza virus created an epidemic in Europe and eventually reached the United States. This epidemic left 50 million people across the world dead including over 600,000 Americans. Most textbooks mention this as part of the experience of Americans on the Home Front during World War I but fail to tell the whole story of its impact. Just as American Doughboys were fearful death from an unseen artillery barrage or a poison gas attack, people at home felt this same fear when they were unable to see this virus that brought almost certain death.


This “opening Up the Textbook” lesson seeks to breathe life into a text through the method of “vivification.” Students will first be given their textbook account and asked to think about what information can be added to have a deeper understanding of this topic. Next, students will be given several primary source selections whose information will breathe life into the textbook selection by adding a depth of knowledge that is omitted from the small textbook passage. By the end of the lesson, students should be prepared to rewrite their history text by including whatever details they gained from the primary sources that add greater depth and understanding now to the textbook narrative.
Document Summary:
Document 1 Shows that Governor Norbeck of South Dakota had fallen ill to influenza virus and is evidence that even high-ranking politicians were not immune from the pandemic. Student will develop a deeper understanding of how this epidemic impact all Americans.
Document 2 Is from the Fernandina News-Record in 1918 and shows how the public was informed about the influenza virus and what they should do if they get the flu. Students will learn about the practical steps the public was instructed to follow if they get the flu or are caretaking for someone who is ill with the virus.
Document 3 Shows how the Federal government in Washington, D.C. educated the public about the influenza epidemic. The document reveals how the Navy Department tried to prevent the spread of the influenza by educating sailors about protecting themselves. In Circular No. 1, the Navy's Bureau of Sanitation suggests fresh air, adequate sleep, and fluids to stay healthy. Students will get an insight on how serious the epidemic was in that the Navy and the Federal government
Document 4 shows how the influenza epidemic affected every part of every life in America. The flu prevented day-to-day operations from going smoothly. Officials advised all persons to wear face masks, even indoors. Many believed that a person could contract the disease by handling documents and equipment. Students will learn how this period created an environment of uncertainty and fear.


Document 5 shows how the influenza epidemic affected every part of every life in America. This image shows a street car conductor in Seattle not allowing passengers aboard without a mask.


Students will see how the fear of contamination created an environment of fear and uncertainty. Mass transit systems, with crowds of people in close quarters, were fertile venues for the spread of disease. In Seattle, public health officials required passengers and employees wear masks as a precautionary measure.
Document 6 shows an excerpt from an interview with Josie Mabel Brown who served in the Nurse Corps during the influenza epidemic of 1918 and tells her story about how she witnessed the epidemic and tried to help the individuals who became ill with the flu. Students will get a first-hand personal account of the flu epidemic affected a health care worker who helped the sick.
Procedure:


  1. Teacher will present the warm-up question and lead a class discussion on the following questions: How do authors of textbooks decide what to include or not include in their textbooks? (5 minutes)

  2. Teacher will introduce textbook account of the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 and ask students to think of what information is missing that would add a fuller understanding of the epidemic in America. (5 minutes)

  3. Teacher will ask students to share possible missing information. First step is to have students make a list. Prompt students so that the list includes: how the flu got to America, how it spread in America, and how it may have affected daily life. (5 minutes)

  4. With a partner, students analyze and draw conclusions from documents 1-6 that add a depth of understanding to conditions in American cities and rural areas that were affected by the influenza epidemic. With their partner students will draw conclusions from their sources and record those conclusions on their Capture Sheet. (20 minutes)

  5. Teacher will instruct students to modify their textbook account in order to give a more complete view of the impact of the influenza epidemic on the lives of Americans in 1918.



TEXTBOOK SELECTION
Influenza epidemic on the home front  The war’s effort was seriously affected by an extremely severe flu epidemic that broke out between 1918 and 1919. In Europe the disease quickly spread across the Western Front, where crowded and unsanitary trenches were perfect breeding grounds for the disease. In fact, of all the American troops who lost their lives in World War I, about half of them died from influenza.

     Soldiers on the front lines, however, were not the only ones to suffer from influenza. On March 11, 1918, an army private in Kansas complained of flulike symptoms. By the end of that week, more than 500 soldiers had come down with influenza. By August, influenza was reported in Philadelphia and Boston.

     This was no ordinary flu. Most forms of influenza were simply uncomfortable and unpleasant. But this form of influenza was deadly. It killed healthy people within days. During the month of October 1918 alone, influenza killed nearly 200,000 Americans.

     Panicked city leaders canceled public gatherings, but the disease still spread. Rumors spread almost as quickly. Many people, such as Lieutenant Colonel Philip Doane, wrongly blamed Germans for causing the disease. Doane remarked, “It would be quite easy for one of these German agents to turn loose influenza germs in a theater or some other place where large numbers of persons are assembled.”


Source: Holt American Anthem. Orlando: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. p.602. Print.



  1. How can we breathe life into this text? In other words, what can we add to this text that adds a deeper understanding of the influenza epidemic of 1918 in the United States?


DOCUMENT PACKET
Document 1
The influenza epidemic effected all Americans regardless of socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, or gender. In this excerpt,



Source: http://www.flu.gov/pandemic/history/1918/documents_media/newspapers/norbeck_ill.gif



Document 2






Vocabulary

Prescribed- to designate or order the use of (a medicine,remedy, treatment,)




Source:

Nassau County leader. (Fernandina, Fla.), 18 Oct. 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn95026701/1918-10-18/ed-1/seq-1/>

Document 3





Vocabulary

epidemic-affecting many persons atthe same time, and spreading from person to person in a locality where the disease is not permanently prevalent.

contaminated- to make impure or unsuitable by contact or mixture withsomething unclean, bad,


Source:

http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/influenza-epidemic/records/washington-dc-directive-l.jpg



Document 4


Typist wearing mask, New York City, October 16, 1918.


The flu prevented day-to-day operations from going smoothly. Officials advised all persons to wear face masks, even indoors. Many believed that a person could contract the disease by handling documents and equipment.

Record held at: National Archives at College Park, MD. Record number 165-WW-269B-16.




Source: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/influenza-epidemic/records/165-WW-269B-16-typist-l.jpg




Document 5





Source: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/influenza-epidemic/records/165-WW-269B-11-trolley-l.jpg

Record held at: National Archives at College Park, MD. Record number 165-WW-269B-11.





Document 6



A Winding Sheet and a Wooden Box

This May [1986], Josie Mabel Brown celebrates her 100th birthday just as the Nurse Corps marks its 78th anniversary. Miss Brown was born on a farm in southwestern Missouri on 14 May 1886. When the harvest failed 12 years later, the family was forced to move by covered wagon back to her father's former home in Illinois. "I ran practically half way across the state of Missouri, I think, because the horses went too slow," she recalls. When her brothers left home to seek their fortunes, Josie helped with the farm work, driving the horses before the rake, harrow, and disk.

But a backbreaking farm life was not what Josie had in mind. She thought about medicine and becoming a doctor or nurse. In 1914 she began her nurse training and graduated 3 years later just a few months after the United States entered World War I. She remembers that new graduate registered nurses were then obligated to serve in the military. "I had to go. There was no choice about it. When my paper came back, it said, 'You are in the Navy now. Do not leave Saint Louis; do not change your address; do not change your telephone number.'"

Interviewed at her California home by her niece, Rachel Wedeking (mother of Carla Morrisey), Miss brown swells with pride when asked about her career as a Navy Nurse. Moreover, she can still vividly relate crisp memories of a period that is seldom discussed in the history texts.

 Rachel Wedeking: How did you begin your Navy career?

Josie Brown: One day I was at the theater and suddenly the screen went blank. Then a message appeared across the screen "Would Josie M. Brown please report to the ticket office?" I went back and there was a Western Union boy with a telegram from the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery in Washington, DC. It said, "You are called to duty. Do you have enough money to travel" And when is the earliest date that you can travel?" And I wired back, "I have money. I can pay my way." About 45 minutes later a reply came back. Proceed to Great Lakes, Illinois. Keep strict account of your expenses. Do not pay over $1.50 for your meals or over 50¢ for tips. You will be reimbursed."

My train was an old pullman going to Chicago. I went right through our town and saw the light in the window that mother put there. I got to Chicago in the morning. When someone opened a paper in front of me I saw "6,000 in the hospital have Spanish Influenza in Great Lakes, Illinois." I said, "Oh, that's where I'm going. What is Spanish Influenza?"

I got to the gate and showed my Red Cross pin and my orders. They put me on a bus and sent me to the main hospital, then took me for my first meal in the service. It was cold pork, sweet potatoes, and apple sauce. Afterward, my supervisor took me to a ward that was supposedly caring for 42 patients. There was a man lying on the bed dying and one was lying on the floor. Another man was on a stretcher waiting for the fellow on the bed to die. We would wrap him in a winding sheet because he had stopped breathing. I don't know whether he was dead or not, but we wrapped him in a winding sheet and left nothing but the big toe on the left foot out with a shipping tag on it to tell the man's rank, his nearest of kin, and hometown. And the ambulance carried four litters. It would bring us four live ones and take out four dead ones.

Did they keep them in the morgue?

The morgues were packed almost to the ceiling with bodies stacked one on top of another. The morticians worked day and night. You could never turn around without seeing a big red truck being loaded with caskets for the train station so the bodies could be sent home.



Was there any treatment for these boys?

We didn't have time to treat them. We didn't take temperatures; we didn't even have time to take blood pressure.



What did you do for the temperature?

We would give them a little hot whiskey toddy; that's about all we had time to do. They would have terrific nosebleeds with it. Sometimes the blood would just shoot across the room. You had to get out of the way or someone's nose would bleed all over you.



What other symptoms did they have?

Some were delirious and some had their lungs punctured. Then their bodies would fill with air. You would feel somebody and he would be bubbles.



That must have been a terrible disease.

You would see them with bubbles all through their arms.



You mean air would get into their tissues?

Yes. Oh, it was a horrid thing. We had to wear operating masks and gowns all the time. We worked 8 hours on a ward sometimes. If nobody had a nurse on another ward, we would go back to our quarters for an hour and then work another 8 hours. It was 16 hours a day until the epidemic was over.



When was that?

The worst was over just a little before Christmas 1918. I was assigned to another ward by that time. One day a man came through and said the armistice was signed. The boys just about hit the ceiling they were so glad. During the epidemic, though, our Navy bought the whole city of Chicago out of sheets. There wasn't a sheet left in Chicago. All a boy got when he died was a winding sheet and a wooden box; we just couldn't get enough caskets.



I understand you also caught the flu.

It was March 1919 when I got sick. They didn't have a room for me so they curtained me off in a ward with other women. They didn't know what I had because I was never diagnosed. I ran a temperature of 104° or 105° for days; I just don't remember how many days. They put an ice cap on my head, an ice collar on my neck, and an ice pack over my heart. My heart pounded so hard that it rattled the ice; everything was rattling, including the chartboard and bedsprings.



Did you have any idea how many died altogether?

They died by the thousands. There were 173,000 men at Great Lakes at the time, and 6,000 were in the hospitals at the height of the epidemic. I suppose no one knows how many died. They just lost track of them.



Josie Brown was discharged from the Navy in September 1919 and took a job as a nurse in a military school.



Source: "A Winding Sheet and a Wooden Box." Navy Medicine 77, no. 3 (May-June 1986): 18-19.


Vocabulary

morgues-a place in which bodies are kept, especially the bodies of victimsof violence or accidents, pending identification or burial.


Armistice- a temporary suspension of hostilities by agreement of the warringparties; truce


Source: http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/influenza%20wind.htm



Assessment

3- Rewrites the text with substantial historical conclusions from student research.


2- Rewrites the text with some historical conclusions from student research.


  1. Rewrites the text with few relevant historical conclusions from student research.

0- Did not attempt



CAPTURE SHEET

Capture Sheet

Directions: As you analyze the documents presented to you, identify three conclusions you can draw from each about the influenza epidemic in America in 1918.








Conclusion #1

Conclusion #2

Conclusion #3

Document # 1










Document #2










Document #3










Document #4










Document #5










Document #6













Formative Assessment
Directions: You are to write the text selection on the influenza epidemic in America in 1918. You your conclusions from your capture sheet to help more and deeper insights to the influenza story



Influenza epidemic on the home front  The war’s effort was seriously affected by an extremely severe flu epidemic that broke out between 1918 and 1919. In Europe the disease quickly spread across the Western Front, where crowded and unsanitary trenches were perfect breeding grounds for the disease. In fact, of all the American troops who lost their lives in World War I, about half of them died from influenza.

     Soldiers on the front lines, however, were not the only ones to suffer from influenza. On March 11, 1918, an army private in Kansas complained of flulike symptoms. By the end of that week, more than 500 soldiers had come down with influenza. By August, influenza was reported in Philadelphia and Boston.

     This was no ordinary flu. Most forms of influenza were simply uncomfortable and unpleasant. But this form of influenza was deadly. It killed healthy people within days. During the month of October 1918 alone, influenza killed nearly 200,000 Americans.

     Panicked city leaders canceled public gatherings, but the disease still spread. Rumors spread almost as quickly. Many people, such as Lieutenant Colonel Philip Doane, wrongly blamed Germans for causing the disease. Doane remarked, “It would be quite easy for one of these German agents to turn loose influenza germs in a theater or some other place where large numbers of persons are assembled.”


Source: Holt American Anthem. Orlando: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. p.602. Print.



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