Love in the Time of the Spanish Flu – MyHeritage August 15, 2020

I saw this on MyHeritage – Love in the Time of the Spanish Flu

The article is much longer and includes newspaper articles. I don’t have to wear a mask due to hearing impairment that the County and City make exceptions for, but I choose to wear a mask.

 by Esther August 15, 2020 History

Over the past several months, it’s become clear that the coronavirus pandemic will change our lives in many ways — not least of which, the way we connect to our loved ones. Experts say that social distancing is the only effective weapon humanity has right now to slow the spread of the pandemic. In many places all over the world, leaders have called on their citizens to express their love for others in a way that is the complete opposite of what we are used to: instead of increasing our physical closeness, we’re supposed to stay away from each other and avoid contact, including hugging and kissing.

Kissing is one of the most common ways humans show affection for each other. Norms differ from culture to culture: in some places, friends kiss each other as a greeting, whereas in other places, kisses are reserved for lovers and close family members. Throughout history, people have kissed the hands or feet of their leaders and elders to show respect, and this is still practiced in some parts of the world. Whatever the norms, the gesture is a universal expression of love and admiration.

Unfortunately, kissing is also one of the most surefire ways of spreading infection.

So what does it mean to outlaw kissing as a way to protect our loved ones from the virus?

We are not the first generation to cope with this dilemma. The MyHeritage Research team dug into the digital archives, including our extensive collection of historical newspapers, to learn how people related to kissing during the Spanish flu pandemic 102 years ago. Just like today, social distancing was key to fighting the spread of the disease, and people were forced to take a new attitude towards kissing.


The above article from the Daily News in Perth, Washington, takes particular aim at women, “who peck each other’s cheek in promiscuous spots, while oftentimes their hearts are hard within them.”

“A kiss should be a sacred rite, only indulged in between people who have for each other a deep and real love,” it says. “Let us at least practise care and refrain from that effusive and generally totally unnecessary kissing which is practised in daily by a multitude of people… Let us at this trying time plump for sanitation, and let sentiment take care of itself… The public should take a firm stand, at least until this devastating epidemic is over, and be contented with a hand-shake and thus avoid the risk of passing from lip to lip the germs of ‘flu.’”

It’s interesting to note that in our time, hand-shaking has also been strongly discouraged, as hand-to-hand contact is also a major risk factor. Instead, leaders have urged people to bump elbows or bow to each other without contact. The “Wuhan shake” — a greeting that involves tapping feet against each other — even emerged in China as a result of these measures.


This article from the Asbury Park Press called kissing an “unhealthy habit”: “The often repeated danger of transmitting disease by the practice of kissing should be heeded for the sake of helpless babies and little children… Suppose for humanity’s sake we all have a care for ourselves as well as our neighbor and stop this unhealthy habit… to be on the safe side stop kissing at once.”


“There being no ‘anti-kissing’ ordinance in Cincinnati, Mayor John Galvin, addressing 800 returned Ohio troops, said: ‘We will now give you an opportunity to kiss your sisters. Of course, if it doesn’t happen to be your sister, er — well, we will look the other way. There is no ‘anti-kissing’ ordinance and if there was, er — the Mayor is not disposed at this time to think it would be enforced.”


About ICT Genealogist

Originally from Gulfport, Mississippi. Live in Wichita, Kansas now. I suffer Bipolar I, ultra-ultra rapid cycling, mixed episodes. Blog on a variety of topics - genealogy, DNA, mental health, among others. Let's
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