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Calm, Cool, Courageous: Nursing and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic 

This year marks the 100 year anniversary of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. To commemorate this horrific event the Center is organizing a campaign, Calm Cool, and Courageous, to highlight the work and experiences of nurses during the 1918 flu pandemic.

Fall 2018 marks the 100 year anniversary of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic. To commemorate this horrific event that impacted the entire world, the Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing is organizing a campaign, Calm Cool, and Courageous, to highlight the work and experiences of nurses during the 1918 flu pandemic. Through a series of social media posts and articles on our Twitter, Facebook, and website, we will tell of the actions of nurses and the city in real time as the pandemic swept through the city.

The first reported case of the flu in Philadelphia was recorded on September 11th at the Navy Yard. In Philadelphia, the disease rapidly spread after a citywide Liberty Bond parade on September 28th, which was held to raise money for the troops in World War I. In the week leading up to this seminal date, the Center will post actions of the Visiting Nurse Society of Philadelphia (VNSoP), including what they accomplishing during the months prior to the regional outbreak, as well as what society in general was tasked with during the war. We will continue postings from the 11th through the 28th: these are limited as the public was unaware of the spread of influenza in the military and increasing exposure of civilians. Since this was not public knowledge until later, our postings will reflect that. They will increase after the 28th as the virus swept through the city.

Using the VNSoP newspaper scrapbook and other Center collections, we will post images and information as the events unfolded in 1918, in as close to real time as possible. The newspaper scrapbook, recently digitized for preservation, highlights the activities of the VNSoP between 1918 and 1919, and in doing so it also captures what people and society were doing for the war effort, as well as fundraising opportunities for itself, the war, and the flu epidemic as it spread through the city.

During the “active” weeks of the flu, the Center will post a series of images and quotes from the clippings in the scrapbook. These clippings discuss the number of fatalities, the spread of the disease, the actions of nurses and doctors, and the measures taken to stop the spread of disease. We will also supplement the newspaper clippings with reports, minutes, and student files from across our collections to show a city-wide perspective of the epidemic. In addition, contemporary articles and documentaries will also be published to provide context for the events as well as to show its spread, impact on communities, and symptoms that caused more fear of this disease than traditional influenza.

Towards the end of this project, the Center plans to focus thematically on documents that relate to the disease that were created after the pandemic occurred. These include the annual reports from the various schools of nursing as well as the VNSoP. This will provide context for how people, organizations, and institutions did or did not record their reactions. Throughout the weeks of this project, articles will be posted online via our website create a deeper understanding of what was occurring in the city and the work nurses were doing.

Our project, Calm, Cool, Courageous, will also include a web page exhibit containing the social media posts and articles written during the flu pandemic, and provide more sources for visitors. The exhibit will provide context for the selection of documents and images we will make available, including smaller galleries that will be curated from the collections in the Bates Center. In addition, a researcher subject guide will be made available with an additional bibliography of outside sources.

Follow along on twitter using #FollowTheFlu