Past Plagues and Social Reform
1347-1351, the height of bubonic plague in Europe: the aftermath brought better pay, working conditions, and diet for the few workers left, contributing to the end of feudalism.
1665-1666, bubonic plague in London: followed by the Great Fire, rebuilding of the city was done with features making a much healthier environment.
1854, cholera epidemic in London: John Snow established the link between clean drinking water and the disease, which led to better sanitation.
1918-1920, world-wide influenza pandemic: furthered the idea of universal health care and better (uncrowded) housing.
Previous occasions spotlighted that the well-being of the privileged depends on meeting the basic needs of the marginalized.
Will that happen again?
People of those times addressed their environmental needs. Our environmental needs are different, but we might too.
“Assisted suicide” centers are closing, admitting to not being “essential.”
Planned Parenthood has literally been decimated – the original meaning of “decimation” meaning to take off a tenth. Of those centers running in February, over a tenth aren’t operating now.
Will we finally get the point that funding for human needs is crucial, and accordingly let excessive military funding subside? Will we make better progress on universal health care, as they did a century ago?
We have yet to see the end results, of course, but we know people like to draw good out of their suffering, so it’s not just meaningless suffering.
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Our Latest Blog Post
Do you focus on one issue, or work on them all? John Whitehead addresses this in Specialization or Generalization? The Many Ways of Following the Consistent Life Ethic.
Executive Director, The Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum (a CLN member group)
E-mail, May 7, 2020
Commenting on the impact of pandemics on social movements
You may have seen the April 28 article in the New York Times, quoting a letter Carrie Chapman Catt wrote to colleagues during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918: “This new affliction is bringing sorrow into many suffrage homes and is presenting a serious new obstacle in our referendum campaigns and in the Congressional and Senatorial campaigns.” Suffrage events requiring public assembly were cancelled due to bans on large gatherings. Suffragists worked as nurses, tending to the sick instead of political campaigns. Protests were halted. Marches were postponed.
And yet, by summer of 1919 after the third wave of the Spanish flu subsided, women’s enfranchisement regained every bit of momentum it lost and the suffragists celebrated a rapid succession of states ratifying the 19th Amendment, leading up to its federal ratification the following August.
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