Archive for the ‘Childbirth’ Category

The Philadelphia Jewess

Fourteen young Tory ladies were selected by Major John André as the “foremost in youth, beauty and fashion” in Philadelphia to participate in the Meschianza in May of 1778, a tribute to retiring General William Howe. Among them was REBECCA FRANKS. As he did with others in the group, André painted Rebecca’s portrait in miniature and penned several lines of poetry to go with it.

Rebecca Franks had Jewish ancestors. Her grandfather Jacob was a merchant and leader of the Jewish community in New York City; her father, David Franks, had moved to Philadelphia and married Margaret Evans, a member of a prominent family of Anglicans. Although David maintained his Jewish identity, his wife raised their five children to be Christians; two were baptized and four married non-Jews; the fifth did not marry. (David’s older sister Phila also married out of the faith, much to the sorrow of her parents; her husband was Oliver deLancy, a New York Loyalist and Anglican.) Despite her Christian upbringing and her mother’s faithful attendance at Christ Church, Rebecca Franks was frequently referred to as the “Jewish belle of the city.”

In 1782, Rebecca married an English officer, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Johnson, the commander of the British outpost at Stony Point, New York, which he had been forced to surrender in 1779. She and her husband left for England shortly thereafter and settled in Bath. When Johnson was sent to Ireland to deal with rebels Rebecca went with him.

It was from a musty old castle in Killarney that she wrote to her friend (and her mother’s first cousin) “Willie” (Williamina) Bond who had married one of Washington’s officers, Gen. John Cadwalader. She is clearly nostalgic for Philadelphia and its exciting social scene. It is interesting to note that Rebecca and many other women in her social circle maintained friendships across oceans and political divides. Peggy Shippen was her friend before she married Benedict Arnold, when he defected, and afterward when she came to London. On the other hand, she did not much care for Ann Willing Bingham. Excerpts of Rebecca’s letter follow. Do notice an expression for pregnancy I have not encountered before.

February 19, 1784
Dear Mrs. Cad
The night before last I had the satisfaction of hearing from you, a pleasure I wish much more frequently I could enjoy. But the vile sea — how much happiness does it deprive us of — but most willingly wou’d I encounter its dangers to visit Phila[delphia] again — but alas — I fear I never can hope for that ALL your eloquence will not prevail while he can he will stay, either in Ireland (where we are now) or England, and his wife must obey.

I couldn’t help smiling at that part of yr letter that so gravely reprobates grandeur & dissipation — you are indeed consum’d Old Lady — now if I who have it not in my power to enjoy such things — was to rail against them the world might excuse me — but in you who have all the rich gifts of fortune ‘tis laughable really — Becky [Rebecca, a sister of Willie’s husband] tells me you are again in for the plate [pregnant], poor Toad. Why don’t you follow your Mother’s wise example — she always contrived matters so as only to be that way once in 7 years. . . . I can tell you very little of yr American acquaintances in London as I left the place last August & indeed when there I knew very little of them except Mrs. Arnold who always behav’d more like an affect-te sister than a common friend, she still continues the same. I hear every week or fortnight from her, she expects to be confin’d [give birth] the beginning of next Month. . . she was & is still more noticed and more liked than any American that ever came over. She is visited by people of the first rank & invited to all their houses.

Rebecca goes on to tell her friend how others of their acquaintance have been received in London society. A measure of popularity was the number of invitations to tea or a party a lady received, and of course the number of invitations she extended to other women. These rounds of visits took up much of the time of socially prominent women.

Mrs. P[enn] was too violent an American to have any intimacy with a British officer’s wife – she is lately lain of a son — Mrs. Bingham [Ann Willing, one of the most beautiful women in Philadelphia, married to William Bingham, said to be the richest man in America] arriv’d but a little while before I left London & while I was confin’d so did not see . . . her . . . [she] . . . spent part of the Summer at Brighthelmstone where she was much admired[;] in London She is not known & I hear has had but six ladys to visit her since her arrival. At first she talk’d of going to court and living away at a great rate but that Idea is now quite thrown aside & she finds an American in London & an American in their own country quite different beings. Mrs. Arnold is the only one who has been the least Notic’d . . . .

I blow your Spouse a kiss and mine blows you one at the same time . . . When you receive this may you be happily fix’d in D—r Phila. Which in spite of Everything I shall always prefer to every other place . . . Advise & tell me soon that you have given General C another son—kiss those you have already for your Sincerely Affecte
B Johnson

Returning to Bath after putting down the Irish rebellion, Henry Johnson was given a baronetcy; Rebecca became Lady Johnson. The couple had two sons, one of whom was killed at Waterloo. Rebecca died in 1823; she never did return to Philadelphia.

The painting of Rebecca Franks, courtesy of Naomi Wood Collection at Woodford Mansion. “Dear Mrs. Cad: A Revolutionary War Letter of Rebecca Franks,” Mark A. Stern, American Jewish Archives Journal; original at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Cadwalader Collection (#1454), Series 3X, Box 71, Williamina Bond Correspondence, Letter B. Johnson to Williamina B. Cadwalader, February 19, 1784.

posted December 15th, 2018 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Bingham, Anne Willing,Bond, Williamina (Willie),Britain,Cadwalader, General John,Childbirth,England,Franks, Rebecca,Friendship,Ireland,Johnson, Henry (British officer),London,Loyalists,Meschianza,Philadelphia,Social life,Stony Point Battlefield

“I am about to leave you”

A salute to JEMIMA CONDICT, the daughter of a New Jersey farmer, in this last post of Women’s History Month. Jemima’s compulsion to commit her thoughts to paper is the reason we have information about her life and the events during the American Revolution. “Sometimes after our people is gone to Bed I get my Pen for I Don’t know how to Content myself without writing Something.” She was not well schooled but she did learn to write: “When I was But a Child my Dear Parents sent me to school to Mrs. D.W. where there was some Children that I now think was none of the Cleverest. I Don’t write this to excuse myself for I know I want sent to Learn of them, But O how ready I was to idle!”

In April of 1779 she bade farewell to her parents and sister as she was about to marry her first cousin Revolutionary War Captain Aaron Harrison. Recall her conversation with her mother about marrying a close relative in this post.

Dear & Loveing parents I am about to leave you & Do Beg your forgiveness for all I have Done a miss while in your servis. I Confess I have bin a greaf to you all my Days Instead of a Comfort which is now a greaf to me. I thank you for all your Kindness to me. I am going Where I Shall have No father to Pray Night & morning [her father was a preacher]. I have Lived this four and twenty years under great mercys, But I have made So poor use of them, it is just I should be Deprived of them all, yet Dear father I Beseach of you Not to forget me, But Pray for me, O Pray for me Dayly, So after onece more asking your forgiveness & Blessing I remain your

My Dearest & Loving Sister, you & I have Lived many years together, But Now we must Part, which is a hard thing to me, O how Can I? my Dear Sister, I have not Bin Such a sister to you as I ought to a bin yet Cant you forgive me? yes pray So forgive all & don’t forget me. We have Spent many Pleasant hours together & hope we shall as many more & bettor then an any we have before. So farewell my Dear Sister, farewell.

Jemima had a child, Ira, in November 1779 and died of complications of childbirth.

The first quote is from In the Words of Women: The Revolutionary War and the Birth of the Nation, 1765-1799, by Louise North, Janet Wedge, and Landa Freeman (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2011) xiii. The other excerpts are from Jemima Condict, Her Book: Being a Transcript of the Diary of an Essex County Maid During the Revolutionary War (Orange N.J.: Jemima Condict Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, 1930), 70-72.

posted March 30th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Childbirth,Condict, Jemima,Education,New Jersey,Religion

“try to give her up freely”

Dr. Richard Hill and his family were part of the substantial Quaker community in America. Born in Maryland in 1698, Hill married Deborah Moore whose grandfather was the governor of Pennsylvania. Hill was a surgeon, an amateur botanist, and a merchant—he owned four ships. In addition he owned several parcels of land and at least forty slaves. When he came upon hard times and was denied “immunity from debts,” he sold most of his assets and relocated to Funchal in Madeira where he tried to build a business in the wine trade. He eventually prospered sufficiently to repay his creditors and make a comfortable living.

Hill and his wife had ten children. Hannah, his eldest daughter, at age fifteen married the grandson of his wife’s sister, Dr.Samuel Preston Moore. She and her husband lived in Philadelphia where Hannah became the surrogate mother to her siblings who did not accompany their parents to Madeira. Her sister Sarah married George Dillwyn, a Quaker preacher; they lived at Green Bank (Burlington), New Jersey. Another sister, Margaret, married William Morris Jr., a dry-goods merchant, who died in 1765, less than eight years after their marriage, leaving his wife with three children and expecting a fourth. The following letter written by SARAH DILLWYN to MARGARET MORRIS contains, to me, a very sad passage. (See the many other posts about Margaret Morris here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Green Bank, August, 1764Mr Dear Sister:—
I was rejoiced yesterday to hear from under thy own hand, that thy precious little one was on the recovery; but, my dear creature, don’t be too secure—try to give her up freely—still—and whether she lives or not, thee will be rewarded with peace of mind. Sister [Rachel] Wells found it the best way to be quite resigned, though it was hard work for her. . . .
I intend to send a few apples for the children; tell me if acceptable, and I’ll send often.
In much love to all,
Thy sincerely attached sister,
S. H. Dyllwin

Sarah is cautioning her sister not to become too attached to her child as the little one may be taken from her by illness at any time. She should prepare herself for this possibility in advance, resign herself to her loss as the will of God. (Their sister Rachel had a child in July 1763; he died in August of that year.) This may have been sensible advice at a time when the death rate among infants was high but it is not the way we look at our children today. The letter is painful to read—and to realize how often mothers lost their babies.

Sources: John Jay Smith, ed., Letters of Doctor Richard Hill and His Children 1798-1881 (Philadelphia: 1854),196. Also John W. Jordan, Colonial And Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania (New York, 1911) 43-46. The portrait of Sarah Dillwyn and her husband is at the Library Collection of Philadelphia.

posted January 30th, 2017 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Childbirth,Children,Death,Dillwyn, Sarah,Morris, Margaret Hill

A Midwife Explains it All (1671)

For this post I am flouting all the rules I set for myself regarding sources and time period, but I just couldn’t resist. You will perhaps see why as you read on. The setting is England rather than America and the time is 1671 not the mid to late eighteenth century. The article titled “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” written by midwife JANE SHARP appeared in Lapham’s Quarterly and was listed on the Two Nerdy HIstory Girls Breakfast Links for the week of October 3. This blog has of course included posts about midwives and the women who used them but this article is such a hoot I had to share it with my readers.

A MIDWIFE EXPLAINS IT ALL

Young women especially of their first child are so ignorant commonly that they cannot tell whether they have conceived or not, and not one of twenty almost keeps a just account, else they would be better provided against the time of their lying-in, and not so suddenly be surprised as many of them are.

Wherefore physicians have laid down rules whereby to know when a woman has conceived with child, and these rules are drawn from almost all parts of the body. The rules are too general to be certainly proved in all women, yet some of them seldom fail in any.

First, if when the seed is cast into the womb she feel the womb shut close and a shivering or trembling to run through every part of her body, that is by reason of the heat that draws inward to keep the conception and so leaves the outward parts cold and chill.

Secondly, the pleasure she takes at that time is extraordinary, and the man’s seed comes not forth again, for the womb closely embraces it and will shut as fast as possibly may be.

Thirdly, the womb sinks down to cherish the seed, and so the belly grows flatter than it was before.

Fourthly, she finds pain that goes about her belly, chiefly about her navel and lower belly, which some call the watercourse.

Fifthly, her stomach becomes very weak, she has no desire to eat her meat, but is troubled with belchings.

Sixthly, her monthly terms stop at some unseasonable time that she looked not for.

Seventhly, she has a preternatural desire to something not fit to eat nor drink, as some women with child have longed to bite off a piece of their husband’s buttocks.

Eightly, her breasts swell and grow round and hard and painful.

Ninthly, she has no great desire to copulation, for some time she will be merry or sad suddenly upon no manifest cause.

Tenthly, she so loathes her victuals that let her but exercise her body a little in motion, and she will cast off what lies upon her stomach.

Eleventhly, her nipples will look more red at the ends than they usually do.

Twelfthly, the veins of her breasts will swell and show themselves very plain to be seen.

Thirteenthly, likewise the veins about the eyes will be more apparent.

Fourteenthly, the womb pressing the right gut, it is painful for her to go to stool, she is weaker than she was, and her visage discolored.

These are the common rules that are laid down.

But if a woman’s courses be stopped and the veins under her lowest eyelid swell and the color be changed and she has not broken her rest by watching the night before, these signs seldom or never fail of conception for the first two months.

If you keep her water three days close stopped in a glass and then strain it through a fine linen cloth, you will find live worms in the cloth.

Also, a needle laid twenty-four hours in her urine will be full of red spots if she has conceived, or otherwise it will be black or dark colored.

For those of you who have been pregnant did you ever feel like doing what is mentioned in Number 7?

posted October 24th, 2016 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Childbirth,Midwives

“I hope and pray, I may never again be left to go to sea”

ABIGAIL ADAMS continued to describe the voyage from England to Boston in a letter written at sea {May 29, 1788) to her daughter Abigail Adams Smith. Ships met in passing are “spoken to,” that is contacted for news or an exchange of letters. The Lucretia met several en route. Normally there were doctors on board to tend to the health of the crew and passengers, to deal with accidents and with injuries sustained in wars. (Dr. Stephen Maturin in the O’Brian books). One assumes that the doctor on the Lucretia delivered Mrs. Briesler’s baby. Ships’ crews also always included carpenters to repair damage to the vessel due to battles or severe weather.

My Dear Daughter:
Tis agreed by all the hands, that they never knew so blustering a May. We have met with several ships, with which we have spoken; and one morning after a very heavy wind we espied a ship in distress, having lost her masts; we steered immediately for her, and found her to be an American ship, captain M——, called the Thomas and Sally, bound to Baltimore. We lay to, and sent hands on board of her, to assist in getting up another mast. We sent our old doctor on board to bleed two men, much hurt by the fall of their masts; and Mr. Boyd [William Boyd of Portsmouth], one of our passengers, said he would go on board and see if there were any passengers; as the sea ran high I thought it was rather dangerous, but he was young and enterprising; our mate, carpenter, doctor, and four sailors, accompanied him. It was late in the afternoon before they could get back, and really at the hazard of their lives, for the wind had increased to a storm and the sea ran mountain high; we were all very anxious for them, but happily they all returned safe; Mr. Boyd bringing us an account, that there were four passengers on board, amongst whom was poor Hindman [possibly William Hindman, an American lawyer who had studied at the Inns of Court in London], almost terrified to death; but as the ship was a very good one, and they had got up a new mast, we left them, we hope, safe. We spoke the same day with a brig from London to Virginia, and an American ship from Bordeaux to Boston. For these four days past we have had finer weather, but alas no good winds, and no prospect of reaching Boston until the middle of June, if then.

You will be anxious to know how we have done: really better than my fears. With respect to myself, I have been less seasick than when I crossed before: want of sleep I have suffered more from. Your papa has been very well. But Esther you say, what have you done with her? Yesterday at five, she had a daughter, a poor little starvling, but with special lungs, old nurse Comis is just the thing, never sick, can eat and sleep, at all times, as well as any sailor on board. We got through this business much better than I feared we should. I had for the first time in my life, to dress the little animal, who was buried in its clothes. At present, we seem to want only a good wind. I am almost exhausted, and my patience wearied out; if we had been favoured with a fair wind, we should have got home before this matter took place. Brisler has been much the sickest person on board ship. I expected him to have been half nurse, instead of which, he has wanted constant nursing. I hope and pray, I may never again be left to go to sea: of all places, it is the most disagreeable, such a sameness, and such a tossing to and fro. Our passengers are agreeable; our captain is very clever; our ship very clean. We have many things to be thankful for. Adieu!
Yours,
A. A.

The Thomas and Sally, Capt. F. Dorset (Dorsett), left London on 15 April and arrived safely in Baltimore by 24 June. The Adamses arrived in Boston Harbor on June 17 and the next day there was a public reception for them after their nine-year absence from America. Read the newspaper account here.

Source: “Abigail Adams to Abigail Adams Smith, 29 May 1788,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified July 12, 2016, http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/04-08-02-0130. [Original source: The Adams Papers, Adams Family Correspondence, vol. 8, March 1787 – December 1789, ed. C. James Taylor, Margaret A. Hogan, Jessie May Rodrique, Gregg L. Lint, Hobson Woodward, and Mary T. Claffey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007, pp. 266–269.]

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