- Unless otherwise noted, all workshops are run in Cavanaugh Hall, Room 438 in Indianapolis.
- Workshops run from noon to 1:15 p.m. unless noted.
Abstract: The Serbian typhus epidemic of 1914- 14-15 was “the most severe the world has known in modern times, according to Dr. Richard Strong of the American Red Cross, but most study of it has been from a narrow medical viewpoint. This paper will look at the epidemic from the perspective of humanitarian response. Limited local medical infrastructure, transportation and communication difficulties delayed the initial international response to the typhus epidemic. British, American, Russian and French Red Crosses, as well as other humanitarian groups such as the Scottish Women's Hospitals, Rockefeller Foundation and the Serbian Relief Fund, responded to the outbreak. During the winter of 1914-1915, the town of Valjevo was particularly hard hit with few doctors or medical supplies during the worst of the epidemic. Two British Red Cross VADs attempted to provide some medical care when the city was isolated from the outside world and nearly all of the Serbian medical staff had died due to the epidemic. In contrast, the town of Vrnjak Banja served as a model of more effective response because relief groups were able to establish facilities prior to the outbreak and the well-equipped hospitals and good cooperation between the British Red Cross and the Anglo-Serbia Hospitals allowed for lower mortality rates and the ability to treat civilian cases. The collapse of the local medical services, limited war casualties and the large number of disease cases, particularly typhus and other relapsing fevers, drove local officials to prioritize care for local civilians. The large number of diaries and personal accounts by leaders of the efforts, as well as volunteers, and detailed medical reports allow study of this interesting case of the leadership of the Red Cross and the interplay between various international efforts. More so than in other theaters, women played important leadership roles in the response to the Serbian typhus epidemic. Initially, women dominated the effort, serving as philanthropists, doctors, nurses, and volunteer, as there were fewer restrictions than on the western fronts. Though women doctors led many of the units, male Red Cross military officials began coordinating the efforts by the spring of 1915. The British Red Cross, through the work of Sir Ralph Paget, Commissioner of Relief Units in Serbia, played a vital role in bringing the various parties together to develop a coordinated strategy to attack the epidemic and bring it under control.