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Deadly Disease vs Suffragists

In 1918, hundreds of thousands of Americans died in the influenza pandemic, known as the Spanish flu. Many public buildings were closed, public gatherings banned. All kinds of remedies were tried, including lying in a bathtub full of chopped onions. Bodies piled up on the street. Coffins were in short supply. Yet, stalwart suffragists steadfastly, albeit carefully conducted campaigns to enfranchise women in five states: Four campaigns to amend state constitutions by means of a referendum for the first time in Louisiana, the second time in Oklahoma, the fourth time in Michigan, the seventh (!!) time in South Dakota, and the first campaign for passage of a primary suffrage bill in Texas, a one-party state where winning a primary nomination was the equivalent to winning an election. Male voters quashed the Louisiana referendum. But suffragists racked up victories in Oklahoma, where 7,000

Oklahomans died in October and November, Michigan, South Dakota, and Texas. The article headline is from the New-York Tribune, 11/15/1918, p. 9. The historic marker was erected in 2002 by a women's club and is located near Cabot, PA. It reads: "Here are buried an unknown number of local victims of the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 -- one of history's worst epidemics in terms of deaths.

In Butler County, the worst period was early October to early November 1918, with some 260 deaths in the county seat alone. Immigrant workers in the limestone and other industries are buried in this cemetery, with one to five bodies in each grave. A large wooden cross long marked

the site."

I wrote about suffragists and the Spanish flu in The Vote: Women's Fierce Fight, available in soft cover and eBook.









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