As experts debate the efficacy of more widespread mask-wearing to potentially help stop the coronavirus pandemic, I’m inspired by stories from all over the world of citizens taking action. In the Czech Republic, for instance, citizens there made millions of cloth masks in a matter of days. Read about it in The Guardian here. Here in the US, Providence Hospital in Washington state started the 100 Million Masks Challenge with an original focus on western Washington, which has been one of the hardest hit areas in the nation. Yesterday, my social media accounts were full of photos of people wearing masks, people sharing that they were sewing masks for medical personnel, DIY instructions, friends offering to make them for people who can't. These homemade versions are NOT medical grade, but some experts are saying they could be worn over N95 masks in hospitals to extend the life of the N95s. Other sources are encouraging citizens to wear them if they have to go out - not necessarily to protect themselves from getting the virus, but to potentially avoid spreading it. The saying in the Czech Republic is: I protect you, you protect me. Watch the short video explaining their approach here.
Though we’re in a very different situation today - these movements bring to mind so many of the efforts regular citizens made during WWII to do their part. Here in Greenbelt, as in hundreds of other communities on the home front, people rolled bandages, collected scrap metal or paper, knitted socks and sweaters, and so much more. The Woman’s Club of Greenbelt was so active in supporting the war effort, that their name was painted on an active North American P-51 Mustang fighter plane! The General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which raised money for bombers and fighter planes in WWII, selected names of its most active chapters for the award. Issues of the Greenbelt Cooperator during wartime have many ads and articles seeking help with various efforts.
A headline from February 13, 1942 reads "Local War on Waste Under Way Tomorrow" and in the next column a story about how local Girl Scouts volunteered to roll bandages; from November 13, 1942 an article noted that "16 women are enrolled in knitting garments and soldier kit bags" as part of the Red Cross. Greenbelt women were also sewing for the Red Cross (see photo below). An article from January 29, 1943 requests that more women volunteer for sewing. Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt herself attended a defense rally held February 21, 1942 (see photo below). The virus we're all fighting is an unseen enemy, but many of the messages, that "we're all in this together" or "stay home, stay safe" emphasize that it will require effort from everyone to get through this crisis just as it did in WWII.
If you'd like to start sewing masks, or contribute in other ways, check out this website to learn about craftivists against COVID-19.
Extra Credit: For more information about knitting on the home front during WWII read the article Knitting for Victory.