Little Brother Recovered from Whooping Cough

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, April 22, 1912: I now have that wonderful oration the way it suits me. I finished copying it this morning. Jimmie started back to school today. So far I don’t have any symptoms of the whooping cough. Don’t want it for two weeks yet.

Jimmie Muffly, 1912

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma was working on a speech that she needed to present on the last day of school. On April 16, she wrote that she was trying to find a topic; and, of the 17th she wrote that she’d found an interesting topic.

I’m surprised that Grandma’s 6-year-old brother Jimmie had apparently been out of school for almost a month with whooping cough. On March 24 she’d written:

Jimmie threatened with the whooping cough. I don’t want him to get it, nor do I want to get it myself. I would have to stop school if I do, and that I shouldn’t like to.

But, Grandma never again mentioned whooping cough, so until this entry I’d assumed that Jimmie hadn’t gotten it.

Whooping cough was a bad illness a hundred years ago. According to Wikipedia:

Symptoms are initially mild, and then develop into severe coughing fits, which produce the namesake high-pitched ‘whoop’ sound in infected babies and children when they inhale air after coughing. The coughing stage lasts for approximately six weeks before subsiding.

So even though Jimmie was out of school for a month—it’s sounds as if he recuperated more quickly than the typical person.

10 thoughts on “Little Brother Recovered from Whooping Cough

    1. I bet you’re right! She’d had to gather the eggs because Jimmie was sick. I never thought of that.

      Even though Grandma only writes a couple sentences a day, I’m amazed how many layers are embedded within what she wrote. I read the entire diary before starting the blog–but then re-read a day or two at a time when preparing posts. I’m constantly amazed how much I notice when I am going through it slowly. Connections between days that I’d originally missed become apparent.

  1. Some of the diseases we don’t think much about today must have been very worrisome before vaccines. I know they still worry about whooping cough in babies. Jane

    1. You’re right–Whooping cough, polio, measles, and other diseases we seldom see today were common in the days before vaccines. Many infectious diseases were problems back then. I saw somewhere that the most common cause of death in Pennsylvania a hundred years ago was pneumonia.

  2. I have two or three letters written by my great aunt when she and my grandpa had whooping cough in the early 1920s. Seems their mother had her writing letters to keep herself entertained. I’ll have to post one sometime.

    1. What a great way to keep children entertained while ill. Let me know if you post one of the letters–I’d love to read it. It would be really interesting to see what a sick child’s perspective was on having whooping cough.

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