I thought this was a striking cabinet card, but it turns out to have much more of a story behind it. This woman is identified as Etta McKay, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas McKay. Searches through The Hood River Glacier and records of Idlewild Cemetery burials tell the story. In 1891, 19 year old Etta was a teacher in District 61 (the Crapper/ Oak Grove school, I believe) when both she and her 9 year old sister were struck by what was believed to be diphtheria. Both died in August, nine days apart.
The sad intelligence reached us Saturday morning that Miss Etta McKay had succumbed to that dread disease, diphtheria. What makes it more sad is the fact that she in the second one from the same family taken within ten days, The parents are almost heart broken, and serious doubts were entertained as to whether Mr. McKay would survive the shock, being affected with heart trouble; but we are glad to state that he is out of danger. Miss McKay was a very intelligent ad agreeable young lady and had many friends in this community. The funeral took place Sunday.
Elsewhere in the newspaper it was explained there could be no services at the actual burial due to the nature of the disease.
This may remind you of the discussion we had a few weeks ago about the Hood River city council's 1895 actions to address quarantine and infectious disease. You can be sure this event and many others like it were in their minds when they instituted those rules.
The Hood River Glacier also explains why this cabinet card was from Port Townsend, Washington. Thomas McKay was a construction supervisor on the streetcar project in Port Townsend, which took him away from Hood River for a period of time.
She is most likely wearing a very uncomfortable corset.
In our local Mt Adams cemetery there are three little graves of three children from the Troh family that died within a week of each other during the diphtheria epidemic. I think they were first buried at the family homestead and then later moved to the cemetery.
As a parent I can’t imagine dealing with that.
L.E. on 21st April 2020 @ 9:01am
As bad as things are now with COVID-19, deaths like this were far too common in the 19th and early 20th centuries. My grandmother gave birth to her first son the day after her first husband died of TB. That baby died two years later of diphtheria.
After reading Billy Bryson's book The Body: A Guide for Occupants, I realized I (and a lot of other people) have been mispronouncing diphtheria all these years. Correct pronunciation is diff-theria and not dip-theria.
Kevin on 21st April 2020 @ 1:11pm
Kevin, thanks for the proper and logical way to pronounce this, I was one of those wrong...
Kenn on 22nd April 2020 @ 7:18am
Me too. Obliged.
Kyle on 22nd April 2020 @ 9:23am