“a critical period of Life”

Menopause was not a subject that was discussed in letters, even in those between sisters or close friends. When it was mentioned it was alluded to so circumspectly that it is often easy to miss. Consider this passage written by Abigail Adams to her sister Mary Cranch.

Philadelphia April 20th 1792My dear sister
I have just received your kind Letter as I was about to write to you to inform you that we proposed Sitting out on our journey on monday or twesday next. the weather has been so rainy that I have not been able to ride So often as I wishd in order to prepare myself for my journey, and how I shall stand it, I know not. this everlasting fever still hangs about me & prevents my intire recovery. a critical period of Life Augments my complaints I am far from Health, tho much better than when I wrote you last.

In a letter dated 27 March 1799, Abigail’s sister Elizabeth Shaw Peabody confided to her:

I have contracted a very bad habit. I do not know but it will prove my ruin. . . . It is that of profusely sweating. I find it increasing upon me—for this fortnight past, it will stand in drops all over me, perhaps once an hour or two and sometimes oftener.

Abigail replied to her sister on 9 April.

Your own complaint my sister arrises from your period of Life, you must take Elixer vitrol, the Bark and whatever can invigorate your constitution, I suffer yet from the same cause, and the debilitating sickness which brought me to the brink of the Grave last year. I frequently have Sleepless nights, but not so often, as I had through the fall and Winter.

Abigail’s letter to Mary Cranch can be found in Adams Family Correspondence: January 1790-December 1793, E. Lyman Henry Butterfield and Margaret A. Hogan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009) p 277-78. The letters from and to her sister Elizabeth Shaw Peabody can be found on Founders Online, National Archives HERE. and HERE.

posted March 19th, 2015 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Adams, Abigail, Cranch, Mary (Smith), Health, Peabody, Elizabeth Shaw

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