NORA STERRY DEFIES PLAGUE
Evening star. [Washington DC], November 07, 1924, Page 35
[Source: Library of Congress, Washington, DC]
VOLUNTEERS DEFY TERRORS OF PLAGUE
School Teacher, Minister and Wife, and Few Others Fight Dread Disease.
By Consolidated Press
LOS ANGELES, November 7 - Four Americans, who voluntarily imprisoned themselves within the quarantine barrier which has been thrown about plague-swept Little Sonora, the Mexican quarter of Los Angeles, today were bringing order and relief to panicky inmates.
The quartet are Miss Nora Sterry, principal of the Macy Street School, which is the center of the district, the Rev. James G. Doty, pastor of the Baptist mission in Little Sonora; Mrs. Doty and Miss Clara Neilson, a mission worker.
With their campaign of relief and sanitation well under way, the health authorities believe that a strangle hold has been got on the dread pneumonic plague, which already has caused 25 deaths, and predict that the disease will be rapidly stamped out.
The Red Cross flag today flies over Miss Sterry’s school, where she hoisted beneath the Stars and Stripes, as soon as she had been able to talk her way into the quarantine zone to take charge of the relief work. And 650 Mexican children, who before had regarded Miss Sterry as a sort of extra mother, are sure now that
they see her in her Red Cross uniform, that she means all that is good and helpful in the world.
Miss Sterry's ample figure, her greying hair and her smiling eyes well become the Red Cross garb, and her kindly voice, constant thoughtfulness and gentle exercise of authority qualify her for the work she elected to do at whatever risk to herself.
‘‘l spent almost an entire day trying to persuade the authorities to let me take over the work," Miss Sterry said when she found time from her many tasks to come to the quarantine rope for an interview. "We were so much better equipped here at the school than the health office was. We have complete information on file of every family in the district, and know just what they need. And I had been exposed - so that didn’t matter. School had been held up to Friday night, although the plague had made its appearance three weeks before. So finally they let me come in and do the work that should be done."
Move into District
Miss Sterry’s staff of three American helpers felt much the same way about it that she did. The Rev. Mr. Doty and his wife, moved into the mission house, although their home is outside the district, so that they could be quarantined and help with the relief work. Miss Neilson, who was out of the district when the quarantine was established, talked her way in to her post of duty. Her argument that she, like Miss Sterry, already had been exposed, finally won for her.
But Miss Sterry insists that her staff is not limited to those three.
“All the people in the district are helping,” she says. “They are used to coming to the school and doing things as a community down here in Sonoratown.”
“We are housing in the schoolhouse those persons who live outside, but were caught within the district when the quarantine was put into effect. Cots and bedding have been sent in by the Red Cross. Provisions also have been sent in and we are serving meals to the hungry here at the school. The men up there on the steps are waiting to get in now. They must be pretty hungry.”
Men Cheer Teacher
The men in the line saw her gesture toward them and cheered. Miss Sterry thought it was because they were eager for food, but the policeman who stood by was sure the cheers were for Miss Sterry.
"We are getting a little volunteer help that we did not expect, and that did not expect to volunteer," Miss Sterry with a twinkle. "One young man came down out of curiosity and managed to get inside the quarantine line. Now he’s one of us. A bill collector came on business which he felt must be attended to despite the epidemic. The policeman grinned when he insisted he had to come in. But the policeman would not let him out again. He’s assigned now to tho dishwashing squad.”
[The 1924 Los Angeles pneumonic plague outbreak began October 30, 1924, and was declared fully contained on November 13, 1924. It represented the first time plague had emerged in Southern California; plague outbreaks had previously arisen in San Francisco and Oakland. The Los Angeles outbreak began on October 30, lasted two weeks, and killed 30 people. Public health officials credited the lessons learned from the San Francisco outbreak coupled with swiftly implemented measures, including hospitalization of the sick and all their contacts, a neighborhood quarantine, and a large-scale rat eradication program, with saving lives. -Wikipedia]