Looking back and looking forward

From the director's desk
By Rivkah Sass
July 16, 2020
The connections and intersections of history and the present day have always fascinated me. Today, we find ourselves in the midst of the Pandemic of 2020. We’re still counting the days, grieving for what used to be, fretting, figuring out our daily lives and moving forward in a situation that is unparalleled, at least in our lifetime. And yet, when I searched through library’s archives of The Sacramento Bee, the headlines like felt like déjà vu.
 flu08-(1).jpg The Sacramento Bee headline on November 1, 1918 reads, “Another Big Drop in Number of Influenza Cases: Simmons Says Masks Cause of Reduction,” referencing Health Commissioner Dr. Gustaus Crocker Simmons recommendations during the 1918 Flu Pandemic.
Reading the article more than 100 years later reveals how some things have not changed, such as the basics in keeping us healthy. That same article also includes some clear bias about different racial and ethnic groups echoing our current state of affairs. Speaking of bias, another article on the front page features the headline, “Dance Hall Girls Braving Epidemic Dangers and Ministering to the Needy.” The unknown writer speaks of the prejudice against the women while extolling their humanity as ministering angels. Apparently, the old City Library building was converted into a dance hall after the new Carnegie building opened earlier in 1918. Once the pandemic hit, the dance hall became a makeshift hospital and the women, faced with no occupation, volunteered to help the sick.
Though separated by a century, these two eras in our local history have parallels. Reading snapshots of our community’s past, we can glean lessons that apply today.

Here are a few more excerpts that you can find in our archives, which are accessible with your Sacramento Public Library card.