“At this time, Friday noon, the most reliable reports available indicate that there is no material change in the epidemic situation in Wellesley. Arrangements have been made to have every new case in town, including the College and Dana Hall, reported promptly to the Board of Health…the situation at the College and Dana Hall is said to be well in hand.” (Wellesley Townsman, October 4, 1918)
Recently, if not ironically, I came across the excerpt above from the Wellesley Townsman during the pandemic facing Dana Hall, the Wellesley community, and the larger world. This article was published more than a century ago.
As a student and later in my life as a teacher, I’ve acknowledged that looking back can provide reflections offering both solace and discouragement. Not mutually exclusive of course, there are examples of both throughout the arc of human history.
Much was different in the town of Wellesley in 1918, but some is the same.
When I reflect on this local newspaper from long ago I am most struck by the similarities. In its columns there are familiar recommendations to avoid large gatherings, cancellations of social events, and detailed accounts of lives and families who have been tragically impacted by the pandemic.
As I see our Dana Hall students wade through the current moment of unrelenting uncertainty and doubt, and as I imagine their predecessors over a century ago, I am truly amazed by their resilience and resourcefulness. I think about the Dana Hall students back then who faced moments of frustration, disappointment and challenge—even without some of the support structures available to the students today.
I consider the lives of Dana Hall faculty members then and now—teaching in the face of extraordinary circumstances. I think about their daily routines, their students, their colleagues, and their families. I reflect on the other Dana Hall adults who served the school community in difficult times—providing medical care, preparing food, offering counsel and hope. Like all schools, the current pandemic has forced us to adapt, reprioritize, and be supportive of one another. We also use moments to celebrate those in our community who are using their expertise in unexpected ways. Could it have been any different in 1918?
The current pandemic is still with us. And it is compounded by our struggle with inequity, as well as profound racial and political divisiveness. But, as I think about those Dana Hall students in 1918 and look at those of 2021, I find a moment of connection—a tangible source of strength. What will the Dana Hall community reflect upon 100 years from now?