At the onset of the current COVID-19 pandemic, we were curious about how the Quarterly covered a similar situation more than 100 years ago: the Spanish influenza outbreak of 1918-1919. Our search found the following article in the January 1919 edition, which we reprint here in its entirety. May we soon have the opportunity to pursue all of our “necessary errands” off the campus.
With due humility Mills Alumnae cannot but rejoice that thus far not a single case of the Spanish influenza has developed on the campus. To be sure, the students went into voluntary quarantine for three weeks, and foreswore street cars and theatres. Guests coming to the campus wore masks and were received out of doors. Classes were frequently conducted on the Oval; and there was a general fresh air and sunshine campaign. An honest sneeze was a source of mortification, and two healthy sneezes sent the offender posthaste to the clinic and the thermometer.
The “chance to stay at home” had many salutary results, for neglected notebooks were brought up to date and loose buttons were securely fastened. Ingenuity in impromptu programs asserted its original self, and everyone showed a fine uncomplaining spirit of co-operation with the ruling of the resident physician—even when she postponed the Junior Prom. In an incredibly short time the students made five thousand masks for the Oakland Red Cross and the S.A.T.C. at Berkeley, and yet maintained a high standard of scholarship in their classes.
However, on the eleventh of November the ban was lifted for the afternoon and some one hundred and fifty masked maidens in specially chartered cars attended the great mass meeting of rejoicing in the Greek Theater in Berkeley. When quarantine was lifted on the following Saturday, there was scarcely a girl who did not have a “necessary errand” off the campus.