|New York County, New York, Certificate of Death no. 5897 (9 February 1919), Sarah Garber, New York City Municipal Archives, New York.|
Sarah was the third child and third daughter of Nathan and Yetta Garber and their first United States born child. She was about ten years younger than her sisters Ruth and Lillian and and must have been very special to the family. She died of Diphtheria and complications of pneumonia at two years of age. This must have been devastating for the family.
These days with vaccines and antibiotics, Diphtheria is not the huge health concern it once was. A contagious upper respiratory tract illness, Diphtheria's symptoms include fever, chills, fatigue, bluish skin coloration, sore throat and difficulty breathing. Complications may include damage to the heart and pneumonia. Even today, children under age five who contract the disease have a fatality rate of as much as 20%.
Poor little Sarah lingered for almost ten days in the hospital before she succumbed. This was just a few years before major public health initiatives began in the 1920s. In 1921, two years after Sarah's death, 206,000 Diphtheria cases were recorded in the United States, claiming 15,520 lives. In the early 1920s, William H. Park led a huge successful public health campaign to immunize New York City school children. The campaign included mailers in both Yiddish and Italian targeting the large immigrant populations in the City.
I can imagine the pain relived when the Garbers received that mailer at their home at 232 Madison Street on the Lower East Side. At least by the time their next child, Irving (born in 1920), was ready for school, immunizations were available.