1918 duck cloth mask mirrors current reality

TERRY DATE/Staff photo. This 102-year-old mask, made from a canvas-like material, duck cloth, likely from the Lawrence Duck Mill, is folded and under a water cup that came from a Lawrence mill. The mask, held by Lawrence researcher Jonas Stundza, was worn in 1918 by a local Lithuanian woman. Then as now many people made their masks. 

In 1918 – as now – men, women and children wore masks in public to seek protection from a pandemic.

At least one of those old masks remains, 70 years later. It was worn during the 1918 influenza by a young Lawrence millworker of Lithuanian heritage: Juze Shaukimiene.

The Lawrence woman made a gift of the duck cloth covering to Jonas Stundza, a fellow member of the Lithuanian American Council.

Stundza, 66, says Shaukimiene told him that most everyone in Lawrence was wearing a mask during the deadly flu outbreak and that many people made their own — just like today.

The 1918 virus would eventually infect somewhere between a third and a half the world's populations, killing 50 million, about 675,000 of them Americans, including more than 600 Lawrencians.

In Boston it took the lives of more than 100 people each day between Sept. 24 and Oct. 12 (many days the number approached 200 deaths), according to health records.

Shaukimiene, who was a religious person, died around 1989. Three years earlier, in 1986, when she gifted Stundza the mask, she also gave him a vintage water cup from a Lawrence mill.

As a little girl, in 1912, Shaukimiene worked in the Everett Mills during the Great Strike, known today as the Bread and Roses Strike.

Stundza gifted the 1918 mask to Lawrence History Center. It's a rarity, he says, being the only one he has ever scene.

He thinks it was made from cloth manufactured at the Lawrence Duck MIll.




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