Influenza and Suffrage

Melanie Beals Goan's picture

With global pandemic on our minds, it is interesting to think back to 1918 when disease was also raging.  Someone asked this week, how did suffragists, who were in the latter stages of pushing for the Nineteenth amendment, deal with the disruptions that the 1918 epidemic brought.  Here in Kentucky, suffragists often temporarily put their work for the vote on hold.  

KERA's annual convention was scheduled for Novemeber 1918, but it was postponed to the following March due to the "flu ban."  (Source: Mrs. Desha Breckinridge, “The Suffrage Victory in Kentucky,” Lexington Herald Magazine, March 14, 1920, Pettit, Duncan, Gibson Family Papers, box 64, folder 5, University of Kentucky Special Collections and Research Center.)

The Fayette ERA did not hold any meetings between August 28, 1918 and January 14, 1919.  During their hiatus they spent some of the time writing letters and visiting families hit with influenza.  (Source: Fayette Equal Rights Association Records, University of Kentucky Special Collections and Research Center.)  

Some individual suffragists, like Miss Della Barnes from the Crittenden County Equal Suffrage League, volunteered as nurses during the outbreak.  (Source: "Report of the Crittenden County Equal Suffrage League for the Year 1918," Report of the Twenty-Eight and Twenty-Ninth Annual Conventions of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association, Held at Lexington, Kentucky, November 30 and December 1, 1917, and Louisville, Kentucky, March 11th and 12th, 1919 [n. p.], [1919]: 58.)

N.B. This post supports the Kentucky Woman Suffrage Digital Timeline - to see the post within the context of the timeline, visit