Life

Swedesburg museum remembers Red Cross worker

Prudence Abrahamson
Prudence Abrahamson

Courtesy of the Swedish Heritage Society Foundation

The Swedish American Museum in Swedesburg has among their artifacts this photo of Prudence Abrahamson, age 17, taken in 1918 while she was working with the Red Cross. When this photo was taken, WWI was just months away from ending after having raged through Europe and the Middle East for four years and also at that time the Spanish flu was killing 50 million people. The headwear from this photo and a tote bag Prudence used at that time are among the museum’s many artifacts on display.

This period in history was also a time of many contagious diseases, including cholera, diphtheria, typhus, malaria, and tuberculosis. Prudence herself would die at age 33 from pneumonia, leaving behind her husband Harold Tolander and four small children, and her younger sister Pauline would die at age 24 from tuberculosis. Unfortunately for them and millions of others, the development of antibiotics did not come into large-scale distribution and widespread use until well into the 1940s.

Today the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the lives of people everywhere around the world. We are grateful for all the essential workers, including medical personnel, custodians, clerks, caregivers, truckers, and all those risking their own health to help others in this difficult time. We encourage everyone to wear face masks and practice safe physical distancing until a vaccine or other cure for this deadly disease can be found.