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WDM Saskatoon

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2610 Lorne Ave
Saskatoon, SK

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Winning the Prairie Gamble -
Spanish Flu

Spanish Flu

Neighbours shut their doors to neighbours, children watched their parents die, coffins piled up, waiting to be buried – the Spanish Flu struck with speed and cruelty.

Infected soldiers returning from the First World War in Europe brought the virus to Canada. In October 1918, it reached Regina and in the first three months of the epidemic, 3,906 people died in Saskatchewan.

The flu began like a cold with sneezing and coughing, then attacked suddenly with pain and chills. Pneumonia set in and death occurred soon after. Young adults between the ages of 20 and 24 were hit hardest.

With few hospitals in rural areas, communities set up emergency hospitals in schools, churches and hotels. Many people had to cope with the disease on their own. They wore gauze masks in public and tried influenza cures such as eucalyptus oil. Prohibition had been in effect since 1916, but many turned to a mickey of bootlegged brandy to fight the flu.

The Spanish Flu epidemic changed rural health care. Communities mobilized to build their own hospitals, and courses on child care and care of the sick were offered to farm women.

In Saskatchewan, 5,018 people died from the Spanish Flu, slightly more than the number of men from Saskatchewan who died in the war.

Research Paper: The Impact of the Spanish Influenza Epidemic on Saskatchewan Farm Families, 1918-1919 by Joan Champ (PDF)

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The WDM will be marking the outbreak of the First World War with four showcase exhibits – initially, one at each of our four Museums. We hope visitors will pause and read the interesting Saskatchewan-based stories they have to tell. Later in 2014, the four showcases will be combined into one exhibit that will travel throughout the WDM system over the next few years.

Find out more about these exhibits -->

Find out more about the impact of the First World War on Saskatchewan -->

Teachers: Saskatchewan Wartime Contributions Hands-On Discovery Box program

Students will learn about Saskatchewan's participation in the world wars, our contributions, and about life on the home front. The in-museum Discovery Box program focuses on the home front and the effects of war on the people of Saskatchewan. In-classroom lesson plans discuss how young people helped war efforts and the experience of Aboriginal people during and after the First World War.

Find out more about the Wartime Discovery Box -->