Spokane and the Nation:

The Influenza Epidemic of 1918-1919

Malcolm D. Haworth, Michael Kratzer, Michael Page, V. Keven Shipman, Marcus Wallace, and J. William T. Youngs

Eastern Washington University, 2005

A Four-Week Lesson Plan

Grade Level: High School

I. Introduction

“Spokane is in the grip of a modern plague. Unlike ancient days, there are no bonfires in the streets, no praying crowds of people in the churches, no burning of weird concoctions of spices and vinegar or sprinkling salt on flame.”

(Spokane Spokesman-Review, October 10, 1918, page 5)


The greatest plague of the twentieth century, the Spanish Flu, began its deadly course in 1918 during final months of World War I.  Before the epidemic died out in 1919 it killed at least 20,000,000 people, more than died during all the battles of the Great War.  In the United States alone more than a half million men, women, and children succumbed—ten times more Americans than died in the war. In Spokane, Washington, about one person in 200 died of the disease.

In this unit students follow the course of the epidemic from army camps, mainly on the East Coast of the United States, to the civilian population and across the country to Spokane and its environs. They will in the shoes of Spokane residents in 1918-19 through a series of learning activities and role-play. By studying documents and other sources they learn about this epidemic in particular and the importance of disease as an historical topic.

Essential Questions

  1. What was the Spanish Flu of 1918-19 like and what was the course of its history in the United States?
  2. What was the experience of the Spanish flu of 1918-19 like for Americans?
  3. How do newspapers, diaries, and other primary sources teach us about the past?
  4. In what ways were people's responsives in 1918-19 effective and in what ways were theyineffective in confronting the Spanish Flu.

Enduring Understandings -- Content and Skills

Students will:

Preparing to Teach this Unit

The materials for this unit consist of (1) an archive of teaching materials and (2) a sequence of lesson plans. The archive includes research materials, study guides, a bibliography, and a "cookbook" of teaching strategies and learning activities. The lesson plans provide suggestions for ways to use these materials in class. We suggest this approach to the materials:

  1. Read through the archive to get a general sense of the materials we have provided. For each section of the archive, we include an annotated overview of the materials and the materials themselves.
  2. Study the sesequence of lesson plans as indicated in the table of contents, which includes a very brief summary of each lesson.
  3. Study the first lesson plan carefully; it and the subsequent plans provide the materials and guidance needed to teach the unit.

II. Project Archive: Materials for Use by Teachers and Students

Annotated Research Materials -- newspaper articles, diaries, letters, images, and secondary sources

Original Materials -- timeline, study guides, quizzes  

Bibliography -- listing, with annotations, of other primary and secondary sources

Cookbook of Teaching Strategies and Learning Activities  

III. Unit Plan: How to Teach the Subject

The Lesson Plans