Date of Award

Summer 2012

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)





Committee Chair

Pamela Tyler

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Deanne Nuwer

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Andrew Wiest

Committee Member 3 Department



As part of the most devastating influenza pandemic in modern history, the Spanish Influenza epidemic in New Orleans left the city emotionally and physically crippled as residents struggled to resume daily life after thousands succumbed to a bloody cough and painful death in October 1918. When New Orleans public health officials reacted to the explosion of Spanish Influenza cases on October 10, 1918, the virus had already traveled throughout the population. Unlike previous influenza outbreaks, the 1918 epidemic killed primarily young healthy adults, the backbones of the working force and families. In an attempt to quarantine the ill from the healthy, the New Orleans City Board of Health instituted a series of emergency regulations that closed schools, churches, places of leisure, restricted transportation, prohibited public funerals, and limited access to basic supplies such food and clean household goods. However, the regulations frustrated residents as the list of deaths increased daily despite closures. Martial law, even instituted late, could not save the city from an invisible force that puzzled both public health officials and physicians. This thesis explores New Orleans' experiences during the 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic as public health officials hesitated to take action, healthy residents struggled to conduct daily activities, and thousands of residents became the forgotten dead.