It seems like if there isn’t a natural disaster that is killing the planets population off, it’s something that we are, or aren’t doing, like getting vaccinated for the flu.
Nancy Bristow, a history professor at the University of Puget Sound, chronicled the social and cultural response to the devastating influenza pandemic of 1918 on May 13 in Jonasson Hall.
Her lecture focused on the culture of America as a whole and how it was not equipped to deal with any sort of sickness on that level. She made the point more personal focusing in on individual people and telling their tales of the pandemic.
One culture that was ravaged by influenza the most was the Native Americans. Bristol looked at one girl in particular, who had been given away by her parents to a Native American reform school. A place where they could make them “civilized.” Unfortunately, it turned into a breeding ground for the influenza. A series of letters from the school were sent to the parents of this girl, assuring that their daughter would be fine and was in capable hands. It only took 48 hours for the next letter to be sent out, telling the parents that their daughter had taken a turn for the worse. Then a telegram five hours later telling them that their daughter had died and had already been buried in order to quarantine the body, and that they could try to exhume the body in a year if the courts allowed.
This was just one of a few stories that Bristol told. She was able to bring the lecture up to the present day and focused on how important it is for us today to get vaccinated. Bristol explained that a different strain of influenza always has a possibility of breaking out, and that we need to do everything we can to protect ourselves.
“I haven’t been vaccinated for quite awhile but after hearing about all of this, I think I am going to go this week,” senior Jordan Baca Haynes said. “I thought I knew everything there is to know about the flu until I heard this lecture.”
Quinn Carlin can be reached at