M2000.41.60 | Face mask

Face mask
1940-1950, 20th century
16 x 15 cm
Gift of Mme Louise Hurtubise Bousquet
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Mask (23)
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Keys to History

After lobbying municipal authorities to improve sanitary conditions in the city's neighbourhoods, public health doctors then launched a public awareness campaign. They focussed their efforts on mothers, as one of their motivations was to reduce the alarming infant mortality rate by persuading people to pay more attention to hygiene, especially with respect to infants, who are particularly vulnerable to viruses. Public health officials made their influence felt in many different areas of daily life, from infant care to clothing, from household hygiene to the choice and preserving of foods. Thanks to the research of French scientist Louis Pasteur, doctors now knew that viruses are transmitted in droplets of saliva released when we sneeze or cough. Doctors therefore promoted home hygiene habits that would help slow the spread of disease.

  • What

    Quilted cotton masks like this one were worn by mothers who wanted to keep themselves from giving their children contagious illnesses such as a cold, the flu or tuberculosis.

  • Where

    In 1918-19 much of the world was affected by the Spanish flu pandemic. Many Canadians lost their lives; Quebec, the hardest hit province, recorded 13,800 deaths.

  • When

    In 1938 Dr. Armand Frappier founded the microbiology and hygiene institute at the University of Montreal. The institute conducts research and produces vaccines.

  • Who

    At birth, an infant has a certain immunity against infection that it has acquired from its mother. As the baby grows, it must develop its own ability to fight off disease; it is during the period when it is building up its own immunity that it is most vulnerable.