In 1918, the United States faced one of the worst public health challenges in its history. An influenza pandemic – also known as the Spanish flu – infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide, killing 20-50 million people, including hundreds of thousands of Americans.
In response to that crisis, the American Red Cross mobilized countless Americans to assist their fellow citizens. Historical primary sources provide examples of civic virtue–that is, of citizens dedicating themselves to the common welfare, even at the cost of their own interests.
Precautions taken in Seattle, Wash., during the Spanish Influenza Epidemic would not permit anyone to ride on the street cars without wearing a mask. 260,000 of these were made by the Seattle Chapter of the Red Cross which consisted of 120 workers, in three days.
- “Red Cross Opens Influenza Hospital“ – an article asking citizens to donate food to the hospital.
- “The Public Health Nurse: She answers humanity’s call” – a poster inviting citizens to donate money to support community nurses.
- “Many Women Nursing; More Badly Needed” – an appeal by the Red Cross Influenza Committee to fill an urgent nursing shortage.
- “Need Red Cross Workers to Make More Flu Masks” – a call for volunteers to make flu masks. (On the same page, “Flu Nurse Dies as Martyr to Disease” illustrates the extent to which many volunteers sacrificed.)