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During this time of year coldness begets sickness, people snuggle closer-perhaps creating more opportunity for germs.Winter's nipping at our nose and the kids are feeling a malaise. Treating cold symptoms in the 18th century were not all the stuff of crazed ideas.
Treating a fever with willow bark to make the pain ease, and to calm the sufferer was usually accomplished with a tea. But first you have to harvest it. Typically, that involved stripping the bark off of the tree and then you steep that bark. The bark is supposed to be harvested in the springtime.
A cough was treated with licorice drops and hot chocolate made with spices. Garlic was used as an expectorant and marshmallow roots were also used to sooth coughs and colds.
Where did you go to get these recipes? A cookbook of course, and if you look at them you will see the recipes right in the last few pages of the book. Outlander of course is my favorite show right now and books. I've written about it. But as far as 18th century medicine goes, this a great scene on an amputation.
Women and babies that is where it all started for new members of the adult club. 18th century women of all casts (this refers to stations-poor, merchant class, rich, filthy rich, street dweller) had children. It was in the contract, they had to expand the family and it was a rite of passage. In fact, having more than seven children was something that the upper classes were encouraged to do. Now, if the lower classes bred in that manner, well it was attributed to other things. In order to survive marriage you had to be able to cope with loss, and in order to survive childbirth you had to not only survive the birth, and pass the threshold of safety ensuring you did not have a fever of some sort-you also had to make sure that you were churched.
Marriage then comes baby
One of those disgusting transactions which were frequently mentioned in the newspapers, and which by a vulgar error, were imagined to be lawful. It was by many persons supposed that if a man became tired of his wife, he might take her to a public market with a halter round her neck, or (as in the present instance) a handkerchief round her waist, and there publicly sell her. Such proceedings were both illegal and immoral, whether the parties were or were not all agreed. Sometime the wife was sold against her will; but in this case, there was an agreement by all parties before they left the cottage at Speldhurst, in which they all lived.
Upper class women averaged 5-10 children in their lifetimes. At that time, they also tried to space them apart by extending breastfeeding, to stop frequent pregnancies. Women frequently died of complications, most commonly puerperal fever, leftover festering placenta lodged post-delivery in the womb. A mother who doesn't have milk was given a wet nurse, typically a woman from the local area set to nurse the baby. Then after the baby was born women were only allowed to be presented back into society after they were churched. Churching was a service to give thanks for a safe childbirth, sometimes with pomp, and official ceremony for the village or community.
Childbirth was the end for many women. Overcome with exhaustion and complications they passed away, leaving behind motherless children. Husbands frequently took on other wives, not necessarily because they wanted another woman, but because they needed a woman to educate their children, take care of the house and help wrangle the seven plus children under the roof....
What made a woman in the 18th century? Well, she certainly had a tougher skin.
men versus midwives
Most doctors in the 18th century were self educated and male. Midwives were still prefered by many women, and while Britain saw a rise in what they called "lying-in" hospitals, it was still up to the midwife to make the birth happen smoothly.
Dr.William Smellie published a book in 1752 that gave an account of deliveries, female repercussions, and anatomy. He details everything from cesarean sections to misshapen heads. I have to say the overview and his take on the procedures is interesting, and horrifying. Certainly one would not think to not tie off the umbilical cord on an infant post delivery for fear that their mishapen head would not go back to normal shape if not done.
"If the head is kept long in the Pelvis, and the child not destroyed by the compression of the brain, either before or soon after delivery, it commonly retains more or less the shape acquired in that situation, according to the strength or weakness of the child. When the bones begin to ride over one another in this manner, the hairy scalp is felt lax and wrinkled; but, by the long pressure and obstructions of the circulating fluids, it gradually swells and forms a large tumour [probably a cerebral haematoma]. In these cases, when the child is delivered, we ought to allow the navel string, at cutting, to bleed from one to two or three spoonfuls, especially if the infant be vigorous and full grown; and to provoke it by whipping and stimulating: for the more it cries, the sooner and better are the bones of the Cranium forced outwards into their natural situation…"
Please have a read of Smellie's work, for free here.
In many cases there were far many midwives that were forced into the job just because they needed a job. Some mostly figured that they would spend their time talking with others, comforting-sort of what a Doula does in the 21st century. But, when the time to came to deliver and a complication arouse, sources that I've read even stated that the midwives would beg for another to come and help, or blindly stick their hands into the womb to turn a child not sure even if they were doing it right. In 1793 some were calling for a school of midwifery to help to ensure that all were properly trained.
Then there was the scandal of having a male doctor attend to you!
During the 1940s slang was invented to talk about fancy officers who touted themselves above others with their attitudes and extra rations. Every generation has their own set of ways to talk about loose women, and fun places and if we listened we might hear some of them still. All-out was a 1940s soldiers term with vigor, and determination.
best military slang from the 1940s
If you are a BAM then you are most likely a big-assed female marine. I'm sure there was a lot of jostling, mostly by men scared out of their wits needing something to distract themselves in another way. Blow it out your barracks bag! means to shut the hell up-interesting. What abouts cat's beer? That would be a large glistening dram of milk. Meow!
Bet you never knew how cool your grandparents were.
19th century marital duties
Women have always worn skirts until pants became a sign of a new female ideology. Dresses stuffed with crinoline, undergarmentless, and fixed into corsets to achieve the perfect bust, and waist. Young girls trained to trim their waists at puberty so that corseting would not be too much of a fuss. Clothes were restricting, there was no doubt about it, but so was the traditional institution of marriage. Now you might be thinking this is all about feminism, but it is not.
In general, being an old maid was not something that was socially acceptable. Mostly because older women were a burden on society, and their own families otherwise. They had to be taken in, and fed, clothed. So many young girls were taught this was not a favorable outcome. Don't try to be an old maid-therefore try to get married. The more money that the suitor had the better, or in most cases the older and more settled in some way the better.
Marriage was the lot of a woman, and once there they were responsible for the angelic home with an air of perfect domesticity. To further ensure that women staid the way they were supposed to be, doctor's stated that too much study caused infertility or other ovary disorders. Families were afraid to further their children's education out of the home, afraid of the repercussions that their daughters might suffer. Surely ideas like infertility, societal black sheep labels, and even old maid curses.
Were the men chaste upon marriage? It was not common! They hired prostitutes, and some towns even put out guides to help men find a "Cyprian Beauty" or something of that ilk.
Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell only felt that men were a sixth her equal
After moving from Bristol, England Elizabeth Blackwell found that she needed money, her family needed money and starting a school with her sister would help feed the family of nine. Then medicine began to fascinate her, and she was admitted to medical school. The acceptance of a woman to the Geneva medical school in 1847 was surely a joke to the professors and fellow students. Blackwell attended but they barred her from discovery class. She graduated first in her class, drawing a crowd of over 20,000 to attend this amazing show.
Blackwell then moved to Paris to study in the maternity wards there. It was then, after caring for a baby she came down with purulent ophthalma. It made her blind, and now unable to become a surgeon. When she returned to America, hospital after hospital rejected her. Finding NY to be inhospitable she opened a dispensary in the poorest, slums of NYC.
She worked with German immigrants at this time. She described them as "destitute, suffering from hunger..." She, her sister and a faithful friend offered loans and free healthcare.
When asked about marring herself, she decided it was a disservice to be both a physician and a wife. She gives many reasons, including a dirty house, chaotic practice, and more.
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