Unmasking Pandemic Masks, Then and Now

An article in the MyHeritage Blog shows that we are not the first to have problems with a pandemic. We are also not the first to require face masks when in public places. Our ancestors had similar, sometimes worse, exposures to epidemics.

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Quoting from the MyHeritage Blog:

“As people around the world begin to emerge from sheltering in place, they find themselves in a strange new reality: one where half of our faces are hidden. Though they are here to protect us, the presence of masks can pose some new challenges — and the way we choose to cope with those challenges is just one expression of how we adapt to our new post-lockdown world.

“But the difficulties surrounding the use of masks goes back much farther than 2020. The MyHeritage Research team took a look at our newspaper collections to examine the surprisingly similar attitudes towards masks during previous epidemics in history.

“In this post, we’ll explore the social and psychological factors that influence our attitude towards masks, both in the present day and during previous pandemics.

“Living in a masked new world”

The full article may be found at https://blog.myheritage.com/2020/06/unmasking-pandemic-masks-then-and-now/.

One Comment

It was December of 1918 that my maternal grandmother had been hospitalized. The reason had been both a mystery and a stigma for our family, which led to my grandmother being counted twice, in the 1920 Census. Just a few weeks ago, an investigative reporter from NPR (Tim Mak) published a story about the “Anti-Mask League” that formed in San Francisco when a re-masking law was passed, when the second wave of the ‘Spanish Flu epidemic’ began to emerge. The “Anti-Mask League” included physicians, as well as at least one member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
A couple years ago, I had made a trip to Napa State Hospital to see if I could find out the reason, why she had been committed. Genealogical interest would not suffice, but with a letter from my doctor, they would inform him. My doctor was told that her diagnosis had been that of a “paranoid condition”. In spite of HIPPA, it would be interesting to know if more pertinent information survives. Because that is how I can picture some physicians of a particular leaning, even today, would pronounce how a conscientious mother of five, would behave, facing such a mortal threat, from an invisible foe. Wear a mask!


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