Volume 7, No. 4
April 2020

The Influenza Pandemic of 1918

by Helen Ramirez-Odell

The influenza pandemic of 1918-19 (often called the Spanish flu) resulted in 8,500 persons dying in Chicago when the city population was 2.7 million. One of the first Chicagoans to die was Mary O'Leary, age 76, who lived at 212 E. Erie. Some of the first cases of the flu occurred at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago in September 2018. Sailors were quarantined but visitors were allowed on the base. Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. John Dill Robertson made influenza a reportable disease on September 16, 1918. 

In mid-October theaters and movie houses were closed. Public dancing and public funerals were banned but churches, saloons, poolrooms, bowling alleys and restaurants remained open. Schools remained open and school windows were to be kept open. Any student who coughed or sneezed was sent home. Persons who persistently coughed or sneezed outside their home were to be warned by police to use a handkerchief or be arrested. Smoking was banned on streetcars and elevated trains.
Nurses were in short supply and there was a high demand for them. World War I was not over and most skilled nurses were overseas. Clara Noyes (1869-1936) was head of the American Red Cross Nursing Service during World War I. She recruited, assigned and organized nurses for assignments overseas in war zones and epidemics, and in the U.S. when there was a natural disaster or other emergency. Nurses were vulnerable to influenza as they were exposed to the virus when they cared for patients. Their work was hard and intense and they were often exhausted. Noyes  was dismayed by the proliferation of short term nursing courses and was a strong voice for the professional advancement of nurses.

In January 1919 Dr. Robertson's priority was alleviating the nursing shortage in Chicago. He decided that two or three years of training were unnecessary to become a registered nurse. He said that women were natural nurses and had an innate ability to follow a man's orders. He believed a 3 to 6 month training program was enough. The Illinois legislature passed bills providing for a two track program. One track for registered nurses (RNs) required two years, not three. The second track required one year of training for practical nurses. However, the legislature made it illegal to present oneself as a registered nurse unless one was licensed as an RN.


Clara Beyer: Champion for Labor and the Social Security Act   

by Joan McGann Morris

Perkins, left and Beyer, right.
 Photo Credit: Courtesy Mt. Holyoke College
In these precarious times, the Social Security Act as a safety net for many of America's most vulnerable has become even more important. One of the women who championed the Social Security Act of 1935 was Clara Beyer. According to the website for the National Women's History Alliance, 
Clara Beyer, born on April 13, 1892 (1990), was an important "labor lawyer, worked with Frances Perkins and Molly Dewson on the Social Security Act of 1935, campaigned to abolish child labor and to secure minimum wage and maximum hour scales." She was noted for working with Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins, the first woman ever appointed to a presidential cabinet, who made Clara Beyer part of her team.

Clara Beyer earned a Master's Degree in Economics at the University of California at Berkeley, specializing in labor issues, and with her education, Beyer was uniquely qualified and well-prepared to take on labor issues and other matters affecting the economy. She was also instrumental in helping launch the groundbreaking Social Security Act of 1935. 

In an article for the Washington Post, September 27, 1990, author  Bart Barnes  wrote that "Clara Mortenson Beyer, the former associate director of the Bureau of Labor Standards, was a leading expert on labor law and administration." Frances Perkins, who served as Secretary of Labor during the Roosevelt administration, asked Beyer to become her aide and adviser, and both women helped shape the labor policies of the New Deal Era.  She was part of a so-called "Ladies' Brain Trust," who advised Perkins during the 1930s and 40s.  "She [Perkins] became associate director of the Bureau of Labor Standards from its creation in 1934 until 1958, when she left the Labor Department to join the staff of the International Cooperation Administration (a predecessor of the Agency for International Development) and toured developing nations to investigate labor conditions and policies."  As in her previous roles, Barnes notes that when Beyer served at the Labor Department and at the International Cooperation Administration, "Mrs. Beyer was a champion of women's issues. She was co-author of the Percy amendment to the International Cooperation Assistance Act of 1973 that targeted specific amounts of U.S. foreign aid to programs serving women." 
Clara Mortenson Beyer worked on labor legislation for more than half a century and her legacy is far-reaching and still important and even more relevant today. We are grateful for Clara Beyer's work and dedication and deeply appreciate all she did for us!


Daisy Elizabeth Adams Lampkin:  
Suffragist and Civil Rights Activist You Should Know
by Amy Laiken 

As part of our ongoing series about black suffrage activists, WWHP would like to spotlight Daisy Elizabeth Adams Lampkin, who was a suffragist, consumer advocate, and civil rights activist.  Daisy Elizabeth Adams was born in the 1880's (different sources list her birth year as 1883, 1884, or 1888.) She attended school in Reading, Pennsylvania, then relocated to Pittsburgh.  After marrying William Lampkin, she began organizing African-American housewives around consumer issues.

She then became involved in the movement for women's suffrage, joining the Lucy Stone Women's Suffrage League, a Pittsburgh organization calling for voting rights for African-American women. According to the Three Rivers Community Foundation website, she hosted her first Suffrage Tea in 1912 to raise money for suffrage campaigns, continuing those fundraisers for several years. In 1915, she was elected president of the Lucy Stone Women's Suffrage League, and served in that position until 1955.  After the ratification of the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote, she became involved in state politics and served as vice chairman of the Negro Voters League in Pennsylvania. She also served as the alternate delegate-at-large for the Republican national convention and as vice chairman of the Colored Voters' Division of the Republican National Committee.  In the 1930's, she  became friends with Mary Church Terrell, who had also fought for suffrage for black women, and Mary McLeod Bethune, whom she assisted in founding the National Council of Negro Women in 1935.  Other organizations with which she was involved included the National Association of Colored Women and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, serving as an officer of that organization for three terms.

She won a contest for selling the most subscriptions to The Pittsburgh Courier, a newspaper serving the African American Community. As a prize for doing so, Daisy Lampkin received stock in the company. She wrote articles for the paper, and eventually became vice president of the Courier Publishing Company.

Daisy Elizabeth Adams Lampkin died on March 10, 1965. On August 9, 1983, a historical marker in front of the Pittsburgh home in which she had lived was dedicated.  She was the first African American woman to be honored with an historical marker in Pennsylvania.

In its website page titled,  "5 You Should Know: African American Suffragists," The National Museum of African American  History & Culture named Daisy Elizabeth Adams Lampkin as one of those women, and quoted her as follows: "You cannot be neutral. You must either join with us who believe in the bright future or be destroyed by those who would return us to the dark past."  Her words still resonate today.


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Please contact us through Amy Laiken