Date of Award

8-15-2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Abstract

A massive war engulfed the world in 1918. Enormous armies of men laid waste to each other with appalling casualties. However, all of mankind was threatened by an invisible killer much deadlier than any war. This menace to humanity killed more people in a shorter time period than any other event recorded in history. Millions died in just a little over a year. This massive killer was influenza. As the Great War held the attention of the world, influenza circled the globe spreading infection and death everywhere. The science of man was unable to identify it and therefore unable to combat it. Comfort care and prayer were the tools that most people resorted to when influenza invaded their homes. Rochester, New York was no exception to the pandemic in 1918. The citizens of Rochester read about the influenza outbreak just outside of Boston and watched in horror as it spread like a spider web across America. Rochester knew influenza was coming. Influenza invaded Rochester, killed hundreds, and then abruptly left. For a few deadly weeks in the fall of 1918, Rochester was held captive by this invisible killer. This is the story of influenza in Rochester, New York in 1918. A human face is put on the tragedy that grasped Rochester. This is the story of the battle the people of Rochester fought against influenza. There were winners and losers. A massive volunteer effort brought the full resources of the population to bear down on influenza, people helping people regardless of class or status. This is the account of hard work, long hours, fear, perseverance, and community. This is when Rochester coughed.

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