How One Gutsy Woman Worked Alone To Save Portland From the Bubonic Plague In 1907

5The first woman director of the Portland Board of Health

In her lifetime Esther was also the director of the Portland Board of Health and founded the Medical Women’s International Association. From 1907-1909 she acted as health officer and chairman of the board, becoming the first woman to hold such a position in the US. She was also present at the first meeting in New York of the MWNA War Service Committee (renamed American Women’s Hospitals). She was responsible for introducing a health inspection of schools. Esther also served as the chairman of the executive board for the AWH and continued to do so till her demise in 1967. Esther also served on the board of the Red Cross in Paris.

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6Portland became one of the cleanest cities in the country

If Portland became one of the cleanest cities in the country, it was because of Esther Pohl Lovejoy. In 1300, the world was ravaged by bubonic plague and everyone thought it would never reappear. But, according to the CDC, it is still around till now. The only advantage between then and now is the information we have about the disease and man is now well equipped with medication and a vaccine to tackle it easily. However, that was not the case in 1900 when the plague attacked America and was brought to the country presumably by ships bringing goods from Asia. The ships were always infested with rats who are the main carriers of plague.

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7The Plague attacks US in 1900

The plague emerged in San Francisco in 1904 and then again in 1907 on the West Coast. But, then it was Esther Pohl Lovejoy who led from the forefront in defeating the disease almost singlehandedly. She was the savior of Portland, Oregon and can easily say that almost 200,000 people owe their lives to her. As per the Smithsonian, Lovejoy also then became the first female health officer in the USA.

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8Lovejoy knew what she had to do to contain the disease

Lovejoy knew very well how the plague was spread. It came from the fleas that are found on the body of rats. If the rodents are killed or die, the fleas leave the host and then can infect humans as well. Armed with the knowledge of the countless deaths in Hawaii and San Francisco, Lovejoy knew how important it was for her to create awareness among the people that it was not Asians bringing the plague which was the common racial assumption at the time. She wanted to show how the real reason that was shocking.

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