Frontline of the Pandemic Softcover


About the book

Letters and Reports from frontline workers in the 1919 Spanish Flu pandemic. These voices from the past describe living in a nightmare, as infected men and women return from the “war to end all wars” – but it didn’t. Doctors, nurses, chaplains, patients and carers, teachers, ambulance drivers, Red Cross volunteers and other essential workers tell of struggling to keep others alive and stay alive themselves. Social distancing, schools and businesses closing, travel restricted, hospital wards overcrowded by those infected, many of whom would not survive. States shutting their borders, even against their own residents. Tales of how people found resourceful means to overcome the difficulties. Just like today!

Follow the story of young Jean Curlewis, daughter of famed writer Ethel Turner. Jean survives working in one of the shunned quarantine hospitals on the banks of the Parramatta River. Dorothea Mackellar tells us about Jean’s tragic fate.

Henry Lawson, from his depths of despair, describes a brief moment in his life at the Walker Hospital.

Nurse Annie Egan dies tragically at North Head quarantine station, denied the priest for whom she begged, as her life slips away. That death causes a furore across Australia, not for her passing, but for the minister denied access to hear her final confession. One reporter writes: For Annie, “the distance between time and eternity was incredibly short”.

Chaplain Hill, from the troopship SS Medic, describes his own battle with Spanish Influenza, of arriving at the quarantine station only days after Annie’s death, and of his ministering to hundreds of men and women of differing religions. Quarantine holds the pandemic at bay for a while, but not for long.

A steward tells of the life and death struggle among passengers battling the epidemic on the high seas. New Zealand is not spared either. A patient describes what it is like to get the dreaded disease and survive. A medical worker who came across “the ditch” to help us here, reports on a tour of a Sydney Emergency Hospital.

And, what of the children!

Although a dramatic account, this book also has its lighter moments.

168 pages. Fully illustrated
Foreword by The Hon. Dame Marie Bashir.

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