Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

Goldberg, David

Subject Headings

Influenza Epidemic, 1918-1919, Diseases -- Ohio -- Cleveland -- Management, Public health -- Ohio -- Cleveland -- History -- 20th century, History Medicine Public Health


Epidemics and disease are often overlooked in historical inquiries. This is unfortunate for a number of reasons. First of all, people's beliefs about what causes disease, as well as their ideas about how to respond to disease, are intrinsically linked to culture, philosophical convictions, and identity. Secondly, the ways a society respond to disease and epidemics largely reflect existing ideologies, values, social structures, and various needs and interests. In short, medical history is a tremendously helpful lens for studying political, economic, social, and ideological aspects of cultures and societies.This thesis looks at Cleveland's response to the 1918-19 Spanish Influenza epidemic. Relying heavily on newspaper accounts and various annual reports, the study views the epidemic crisis from a public health perspective, and explores the multiple factors that influenced the city's response. Acutely aware of the roles played by historical precedents, the thesis delves deeply into Cleveland's history of health care and finds a rich tradition of public health responses in the city. Many of these were utilized during the Spanish Flu crisis. Most importantly, the city relied greatly on Progressive traditions of education and cooperation. It also benefitted from a highly educated and well organized health department. Equally aware of the importance of historical context, the thesis looks at life in Cleveland in 1918. An extraordinary event in its own right, the deadly flu epidemic arrived in the U.S. and Cleveland during even more extraordinary times. Most crucially, in 1917, the United States became embroiled in what is now known as the First World War. This changed life in the U.S. and Cleveland almost beyond comprehension. The war effort took on such an important role that practically all elements and facets of society were affected by it. Public health was not an exception. This thesis explores many of the numerous ways that the Great War affected Cleveland's response to the Spanish Flu. Crucially, the

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