Patience Jackson and Maggie Walker
Young people were particularly vulnerable to the influenza pandemic. But the disease was even crueler. "Those most vulnerable of all to influenza," John Barry writes, "those most likely of the most likely to die, were pregnant women." Although the Americus Times-Recorder may have downplayed the effects of influenza on pregnant women, a significant proportion of local deaths were recently married women in their late teens and twenties. Patience Jackson, an African American sharecropper, and Maggie Griffin Walker, an affluent white woman, may offer local examples of this tragedy.
Influenza compounded social and economic inequality. Although all of the obituaries in the Times-Recorder were of white influenza victims, county death certificates suggest that African Americans were more likely to die that whites and Black women were twice as likely as white men or women. Patience Jackson was among the victims. Born in June 1897 to Ida and Waslter Jackson, she grew up in family of sharecroppers on the outskirts of Americus. According to U.S. census takers in 1900, neither of her parents could read or write. This was not uncommon; after all, it was the goal of planters and white southern politicians in the post-Reconstruction South to keep African Americans in servile positions. Ten years later, the family in a similar situation, only larger. Patience was the oldest daughter and the second oldest child in a family of eight children, two parents, and one grandparent.
Margaret "Maggie" Griffin, was living a much different life than Patience. While both women were from Georgia and their fathers were farmers, Margaret was born into a privileged white family in October 1891. Her family owned their home, the children attended good public schools as well as college. Maggie's half-brother, Douglas B. Mayes, would get an M.D. from Vanderbilt and practice medicine in Americus.
Griffin and Jackson's paths diverged further with marriage. Both young women married at about age twenty, but their marriages also put them on different tracks. Maggie married William Jones Walker, a pharmacist, on September 8, 1908. This further solidified her status among, at least, the middle class. Patience married Clyde Carter on June 27, 1918. Carter was a farm laborer like his father and a similar economic situation as Patience. Also, like Patience, Carter came from a large family of eight children. First distance and, then, death separated the newlyweds. Clyde Carter joined Company A, 316 Labor Battalion and left for Europe in the early fall of 1918. Whether the newly weds expected a child the following year is unknown. It is also possible that Maggie and Jones Walker were expecting. They had two boys, aged two years apart, youngest of whom was born in 1913. An unmarked child's grave in the Griffin family plot indicates that the family did lose a child in the early twentieth century.
Influenza cut both their lives short. Maggie died on October 28, 1918. The family moved her out of the city in hopes that the might recover in the country. She left behind two parents, a husband, and two children. Not only her family was in mourning, but possibly all who read the Times-Recorder. She had a whole section of the front page of the newspaper. Patience Jackson's death, in contrast, received no mention at all. The only surviving record of it is an official death certificate. She was buried in Eastview Cemetery. Her grave site is unmarked.
Both lived very different lives, and left behind different legacies. Patience Jackson's death was both an individual and community loss. Her story was both unique and also part of this global experience. Although the newspaper did not record her death because of her race, she was perhaps more representative of the global experience than Maggie Jones. In this way, Maggie's death was more of an anomaly. She was publicly mourned by the only newspaper in town.
Even with all of their differences they can still be compared in broad terms. Both died young from influenza and left many mourning families. When looked at it that way, they both were similar—a global pandemic made their outcomes the same.