Polio in 1940s North Carolina: Background information when reading Flora

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by Gail Godwin

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  • First Published:
    May 2013, 288 pages
    Mar 2014, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder

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Beyond the Book:
Polio in 1940s North Carolina

March of Dimes poster about polio In the fictional North Carolina mountain town at the heart of Gail Godwin's Flora, a 1945 polio scare takes the life of one child and paralyzes another while the community scrambles to contain the disease. These tragedies, which form part of the cultural fabric of Godwin's fictional world, echo real events that took place in rural North Carolina in the 1940s, when the polio epidemic was peaking there. In 1944, the mountain town of Hickory, NC, experienced a devastating polio outbreak. When local facilities were not adequate to house the stricken, most of whom were children, residents mobilized. They repurposed a rustic health camp that had been built the year before for children recovering from tuberculosis, and built a new hospital on the spot. Tent wards were erected, and the one stone building on the site held the worst cases. Water, electrical, and phone service were brought in, and beds and equipment collected. Medical staff, in short supply during wartime, came from all over ...

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