17/08/2018 Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Nursing ancestors during history's deadliest pandemic, Spanish Flu


An exhibition marking 100 years since the deadliest pandemic in human history is opening at London’s Florence Nightingale Museum.


The exhibition highlights the devastating impact of the Spanish flu pandemic, and the role of both professional nurses in military field hospitals and ordinary women at home in caring for victims. Spanish flu struck in the autumn of 1918, just as World War I drew to a close. It is estimated to have infected half a billion people globally and killed 50-100 million, significantly more than the war itself.


Healthy young adults were particularly vulnerable. Victims suffered gruesome symptoms, including explosive nosebleeds and distinctive blue tinged skin caused by lack of oxygen in their fluid-filled lungs.


The scale of the pandemic was so vast that key public services broke down worldwide, hospitals were overwhelmed with patients, and a shortage of coffins and gravediggers meant victims’ bodies could remain unburied for weeks.


Nursing ancestors? These stories may interest you too:

• Service Scrapbooks: Nursing and storytelling in the First World War – new website from the Royal College of Nursing

• Records of 1.5m nursing ancestors online for the first time


Florence Nightingale’s pioneering nursing work during the Crimean War revolutionised the way nurses were viewed. With the outbreak of the First World War, four years after her death, thousands of women followed her lead and volunteered as nurses. Following the Spanish flu outbreak, doctors were at a loss to treat or prevent it. Only good nursing seemed to help, so it often fell to women to care for victims.


Using its expertise, collections and knowledge of nursing, the Florence Nightingale Museum has developed an exhibition offering a variety of interpretations, interactives, films

and object displays about this global tragedy.


The exhibition, which is free with paid museum admission, runs from 21 September 2018 until 16 June 2019 and will be supported by a diverse events programme, a free downloadable resource pack and a pop-up touring exhibition.


Find out more here.



Image: American Red Cross production workers making flu masks in 1918, courtesy of the American Red Cross Archives.


17/08/2018 Share this story Share on Facebook icon Share on Twitter icon Share on Pinterest icon Share on Google Plus icon Share on Linked In icon Share via Email icon

Recent Updates

Get ready for RootsTech London!

RootsTech is heading from the US to London for the first time this October. Find out more

Genealogy project seeks descendants of Arbroath signatories

Descendants of signatories of the Declaration of Arbroath, which asserted Scottish sovereignty in 1320, are ...

Full-size reconstruction of the 7th-century Sutton Hoo ship to be created through national fundraising campaign

A national fundraising campaign is set to “Make Ship Happen” for a £1 million project to build a full-size ...

The sailing of the Mayflower Pilgrims - 400th anniversary

Make sure you’re up to speed with the Mayflower, as during the coming year you’re sure to hear a lot about ...

Other News

The Whitehall's family tree on 'Who Do You Think You Are?'

Jack & Michael Whitehall unearth skeletons at every turn … watch their story in ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’. ...

New research reveals 40% of people will take the family to their childhood holiday destination this summer

New findings revealed by Ancestry UK reveal that two fifths (40%) of UK adults are planning on taking their ...

Top 007 inspirational tips from James Bond star Naomie Harris’s Who Do You Think You Are? family history search

Learn how you can follow in your ancestors’ footsteps, like Naomie Harris, as Family Tree editor Helen Tovey ...

Hearth Tax Digital opens up 17th century family history records online

Genealogist David Annal reports on a free new website that aims to open up a remarkable 17th century resource ...