When Over 20 Million People Died of the Flu

We live in a relatively healthy period in time. We no longer die of the black plague or small pox. There are cures for rabies and inoculations for just about everything from the flu to chicken pox to polio. But less than one hundred years ago, a flu pandemic swept through the world and killed over 20 million people. Over 600,000 of those people were in the United States. Some estimates say the death toll world-wide was as high as 30 to 50 million.

The time was during the ending days of World War One in 1918. Roller skating rinks, movie theaters, and amusement parks were popping up every where as Americans had more money and leisure time than ever before. Although almost everyone in America lived on farms and in rural areas, people were increasingly moving to the cities and suburbs. Model Ts were affordable, and many were trading their horses in for cars. All the modern conveniences like indoor bathrooms, running water, electricity, and the telephone were starting to make their way into some homes. Women were starting to work outside of the home before they had children, and states were ratifying the amendment to give women the right to vote.

The only downside to living in America during this period of time was the Great War across the ocean. Germany and its allies were set on conquest and Europe was in a stalemate costing thousands of lives. In 1917, the United States entered the war, and many young men were sent overseas as Dough boys.

In 1918, the first cases of the pandemic flu epidemic hit. Many soldiers in army training camps through the US were some of the first victims. Military hospitals, both in the US and overseas, filled up quickly with more victims from the flu then from warfare. Nine million solders died from warfare, but 50 million died from the flu.

In March 1918, Haskell County, Kansas sent a message to the Public Health Department informing them of 18 cases of severe influenza. By May, cases of influenza overseas was being reported. By August the flu swept through North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The flu came in three major waves, the last hitting in Spring 1919, a few months after the Great War had ended. One factor for the defeat of the Germans was the devastating effects of the flu on their soldiers.

The Public Health Service fought the flu spread through education (fliers, ads, posters), quarantine, sanitary measures, and requiring masks be worn in public. Although these measures probably helped, the flu epidemic eventually just went away.

In my new novella, Resurrection of Hope, Vivian’s parents and sister died of the influenza epidemic. Most families during that time had family members who had died from the flu. Here’s a blurb from Resurrection of Hope due to be released July 1st.


Resurrection of Hope

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

She thought he was her knight in shining armor, but will a marriage of convenience prove her wrong?

After Vivian’s fiancé dies in the Great War, she thinks her life is over. But Henry, her fiancé’s best friend, comes to the rescue offering a marriage of convenience. He claims he promised his friend he would take care of her. She grows to love him, but she knows it will never work because he never shows any love for her.

Henry adores Vivian and has pledged to take care of her, but he won’t risk their friendship by letting her know. She’s still in love with the man who died in the Great War. He won’t risk heartache by revealing his true emotions.


This entry was posted in Author Tamera Lynn Kraft, Events in History, History Sharpeners by Tamera Lynn Kraft. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tamera Lynn Kraft

Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures and writes Christian historical fiction set in America because there are so many adventures in American history. She is married to the love of her life, has two grown children, and lives in Akron, Ohio. Soldier’s Heart and A Christmas Promise are two of her historical novellas that have been published. She has received 2nd place in the NOCW contest, 3rd place TARA writer’s contest, and is a finalist in the Frasier Writing Contest.

2 thoughts on “When Over 20 Million People Died of the Flu

  1. Tamera, I grew up overseas on military bases and my mom often took us to old cemeteries. Sounds spooky but they are great history lessons. We talked about the way of life for people in the decades or even centuries before. One memory that stays with me is the graves of whole families lined up side-by-side. Parents and children all died within a few days of each other. We saw many of these family sites from the years of WWI.

    • People think I’m crazy for visiting graveyards too, but there is so much history to be found there. You’re right that the saddest graves are entire families who died in 1918-1919. Thanks for commenting, Sherry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s