Selfish, inconsiderate germ-spreaders are a big reason why the coronavirus pandemic has been getting worse. It turns out that anti-mask sociopaths were a problem during the 1918-1919 pandemic, too. The Anti-Mask League of San Francisco was formed during the time of Spanish Flu to protest mask requirements in the city.
Although there were some complaints from citizens during the initial period of mask-wearing, the new ordinance in 1919 galvanized more serious opposition and the Anti-Mask League was formed. Members of the league included physicians, citizens, civil libertarians, and at least one member of the Board of Supervisors. An estimated 4,000–5,000 citizens attended the meeting on January 25. Some members of the league wanted to collect signatures on a petition to end the mask requirement, while others wanted to initiate recall procedures for the city health officer. Members of the anti-mask league also agitated for San Francisco Mayor James Rolph, Jr., to resign if he did not repeal the ordinance. The president of the League, suffragette, attorney, and labor rights activist Mrs. E.C. Harrington, was a fierce critic of the mayor, and it has been suggested that the anti-mask league protests were politically motivated. The debate was heated. Some objections to the ordinance were based on questions of scientific data while others considered the requirement to infringe on civil liberties
In addition to complaints from the Anti-Mask League, some health officers from other cities also contended that masks were not necessary. The San Francisco city health officer criticized the secretary of the state's Board of Health for questioning the efficacy of masks, saying "The attitude of the state board is encouraging the Anti-Mask League."
On January 27, the league presented a petition, signed by Mrs. E. C. Harrington as president, to the city's Board of Supervisors, requesting a repeal of the mask ordinance. Newspapers across the world took note of the protesting organization. San Francisco lifted the mask requirement effective February 1, 1919, on the recommendation of the Board of Health.
According to medical historians, the decline in deaths from influenza in San Francisco can be partly attributed to the mandatory mask-wearing policies.