1918 Farm Work, Mount Holyoke College Archives
Mount Holyoke College Archives

 

 

1918 Pandemic

      Amherst, Hadley, Northampton, and South Hadley, MA    

                                     

             
An ISCU (Slides from Lisa Stone M.D., M.P.H.)


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Deaths Caused by Influenza 1917-1919

Deaths Caused by Influenza, 1917-1919
1917
1918 (Year of Epidemic)
1919
Towns, MA
TD
D, Flu
%
TD
D, Flu
%
TD
D, Flu
%
Amherst
61
0
0
79
9
11.4
69
1
1.4
Hadley
26
0
0
46
7
15.2
29
2
6.9
Northampton
436
4
0.9
591
97
16.4
419
30
7.2
South Hadley
41
0
0
60
7
11.7
51
1
2.0

TD: Total Number of Deaths
D, Flu: Total Number of Deaths Caused by Influenza
%: Percentage of Total Deaths Caused by Influenza

Sources: Seventy-Sixth Registration Report, MA 1917, Seventy-Seventh Registration Report, MA 1918, Seventy-Eighth Registration Report, MA 1919


Analysis

In Amherst, 1918 (the height of the pandemic), 11.4% of all deaths were caused by influenza. As you can see above, the rate in Northampton was above that of Amherst at 16.4% of all deaths. In order to make predictions about the future if a pandemic of this nature were to strike the area, the rate of infection would be much higher, thus resulting in an even greater number of deaths.

In 1918, the population of Amherst was around 5,000 people, whereas today the population is approximately 35,000. Not only would the effects of a pandemic be magnified seven times over, but we are a much more connected community than ever before. Nearly everyone owns a car or takes a bus, people go to and from Amherst everyday from surrounding areas, and the center of town is always full of people. Since our community has become so much more mobile, this will magnify the potential problem even further. If Amherst were still more of a rural town, then a disease is conceivably easier to quarantine, as you wouldn't have the same constant flow of people. Due to the increase in the size of the town coupled with the mobility factor, the results of such a pandemic would look more like the data from Northampton, but to a greater extent.

Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Amherst Colleges during the pandemic

Many letters from students and faculty member, president's reports, reports of the college physician, and newspapers shed light on the changes made at the colleges and what it was like to live at these colleges during the 1918 pandemic. During the 1918 pandemic, the colleges were hit with what they called mild influenza. A quarantine was instated Sept. 28th, 1918 banning large gatherings and keeping people within college boundaries and off the streets. The Smith 'houses' were isolated beginning October 2nd. Students were only allowed to travel home if they had permission from their Board of Health in their home town, meaning that the dorms and food services remained open. Half of the students at Smith returned home. The college doctors were overworked so the help of a town doctor was needed. At Mount Holyoke College the infirmary was full, so the Brigham Residence Hall was converted into an infirmary, and an off campus house was taken over to hold about 50 of the sick. Similarly, at Smith College, Baldwin House was converted into an infirmary for mild cases. At Smith College, faculty and students who were trained by the Red Cross cared for the lighter cases, with 29 students on duty at any given time. Two students died at Smith, one student died at Amherst from influenza, and one student at Mount Holyoke died due to complications with pneumonia. Mount Holyoke classes were not cancelled, but classes at Smith were canceled from October 3-18, 1918, which is probably a reflection of the difference in student and town population between the two colleges, since Smith's enrollment was 2,106 at the time.

                                              
Letters from students and faculty to their friends and family in September and October of 1918, as well as a newspaper article. (Mount Holyoke College Archives)

 

                                            
Newspapers, the president's report, and the report of the college physician. (Smith College Archives)

Quotes

Sept. 28, 1918 letter to Mamma from Mildred Allen. (Mount Holyoke College Archives)

September 29, 1918 letter to Mamma from Mildred Allen. (Mount Holyoke College Archives)

October 13, 1918 letter to Mamma from Mildred Allen. (Mount Holyoke College Archives)