In 1905 ther was a sidebar in New Hampshire news: Mrs. Gordon Woodbury and the women of Bedford, New Hampshire formed a Child Study Circle. The group's goal was to 'raise the standard of home life, to study the means for best developing the physical, intellectual and spiritual nature of the child; to bring into close relation the home and the school, that teachers and parents may intelligently cooperate in the education of the children of Bedford'. The group endeavored to achieve these altruistic goals through hands on demonstrations. They taught families the importance of manners, school attendance, nutrition, cleanliness, exercise, spiritual awareness and made sure the school children of Bedford had their immunization shots.
For 11 years Circle’s activities were going smoothly and they were achieving their goals. Then, out of nowhere, there were rumors there was a disease spreading throughout the entire country and with certainty it would soon be in New Hampshire. This disease was to be known at the “Spanish Flu” pandemic of 1918.Even then, the New Hampshire health officials knew to shut down: local clubs, meetings, schools, movie theaters, ice cream parlors and coffee houses and social events. They also ordered all businesses to keep their windows open the entire year, disregarding how hot or how cold the weather. The health officials were urging people to bathe, wash their hands, avoid talking or breathing on other people, avoid crowds and most importantly wear masks when in public.To keep the Bedford community safe, members of the Child Study Circle joined with the Bedford Sewing Battalion and began making facial masks as directed by governmental guidelines. In 1918 the official guideline for facial masks was to make them of bandaging gauze, not much protection for the virulent H1N1 Spanish virus. These masks were to measure six by eight inces and contain eight layers of gauze. If a person declined to wear a mask that person was publicly ridiculed and avoided. By 1920 over 2,700 people had diedin New Hampshire including 527 people in Manchester. It should be remembered, the 1920 population of New Hampshire was only 444,000 and Manchester only 78,000 people. For many years after the H1N1 virus ran its course daily life was not the same. To quote Lynette Iezzoni from her book Influenza 1918, "Feeble recovering patients hobbled like invalids, gasping for breath. Some remained stone deaf. Others developed disorders of the heart, lungs and kidneys ... and often not just the body, but the mind remained feeble.” Normalizing life took many months, if not years.After the pandemic the Bedford Child Study Circle resumed its purpose in helping Bedford’s children and their families recover from the pandemic.By 1949 the needs of Bedford had changed. New Hampshire’s health community and school systems had advanced and were now leading in teaching some of the very standards that the Bedford women and brought forward in 1905. With these advancements, the membership of the Child Study Circle voted to change its name and purpose. The Child Study Circle became the Bedford Woman’s Club and its purpose became Bedford scholarship and charitable giving.Funds for these activities were and continue to be raised through fundraisers such as: BWC Cookbook, Time and Talent Auction, Whale of a Sale, Holly Luncheon Auction, Charitable Donations Committee and most importantly membership donations.We are now in the year 2020 and a new virus is upon us, Coronavirus, SARS-CpV-2. This virus has shut down life as we expect and enjoy. The Government has ordered people to stay at home, no going to work, no going to school, no visiting grandparents, no social contact with those outside your immediate family circle, mask must be worn if going to the grocery store, drug store, doctor or visiting extended family. On-line shopping and at-arms-length home delivery has become the norm. Thankfully the internet has allowed video contact with family members.Members of the Bedford Women’s Club have again joined with the Bedford Sewing Battalion in making 1,000’s of approved standardized facial masks. These facial masks have been given to the public and front-line workers.Most New Hampshirites have adhered to these governmental edicts. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to families who have had to endure the pain of loss of loved ones.It is not known what is waiting for us in the coming months. But the members of the BWC can be assured that the Bedford Women’s Club leadership is optimistically preparing for the year 2020-2021 activities. Hopefully soon the virus will have spent itself and we can resume some sense of normalcy. It will be good to have social contact with our work, friends and family. This renewed social contact is good for our well-being and stability.