When the City is a Great Field Hospital:

A Public Health Nurse's Story

The Spanish flu is sweeping round the globe, and strikes New York City in the fall of 1918. At no time in the history of the City of New York is it so ill prepared.

 

War needs have depleted available hospital beds, doctors, nurses, druggists, and supplies, and there are insufficient laundresses, graves, grave diggers, and even shroud makers. People are walking off the job in hospital laundry rooms and kitchens because they’re afraid of contagion.

 

During the first four days of October five hundred cases of pneumonia and influenza are reported to Lillian Wald, Chairman of the newly formed Nurses’ Emergency Council.

 

As panic spreads and fear comes scratching at the doors of New York City’s residents like the fangs of the wolf, Lillian and her nursing staff must answer the call. But how can she help those stricken with flu-related illness and pneumonia when there are only 180 visiting nurses available to a population of three and a half million?  

A humanitarian, social reformer, and the founder of public health nursing, Lillian Wald combined superb organizing ability with a steady and seasoned courage. Our story focuses on the extraordinary measures she took to relieve human suffering and save human lives during a raging epidemic.

Relying on Lillian Wald’s own words and those of her fellow nurses, Red Cross officials, doctors, politicians, and ordinary citizens, we aim to bring an infusion of hope to people living under frightfully similar circumstances today.

 

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