The Monthly Nurse

January 17, 2019 at 10:32 am (diaries, history, jasna, research, World of Two Teens) (, , , )

Back in 2015, at the JASNA Annual General Meeting (Jane Austen Society of North America’s AGM) entitled LIVING IN JANE AUSTEN’S WORLD, I gave a paper that cited “True Tales of Life, Death, and Confinement: Childbirth in Early 19th Century England.” Everything was based on the many confinements relating to the family of Emma Austen Leigh and her sister-in-law Mary Smith (my “Two Teens,” now all grown up!). This spanned from the 1790s, with the recorded birth of Emma’s cousin Lord Compton, through the 1850s, when the last children born to Emma’s younger siblings were coming into the world. The treatment of mothers, in the post-natal period, throughout this span of sixty years, were remarkably consistent. One item that caused a LOT of ink to be expended concerned their use of the Monthly Nurse.

An audience member (at that talk) fairly recently asked me to remind her about the Monthly Nurse, so it was rather FRESH in my mind when I spotted, (on the website dealing with Emma’s son ARTHUR HENRY Austen Leigh), a late census report listing among the servants a Monthly Nurse!

HANNA HORSMEN, married, 55, female; birthplace: Thornbury, Gloucestershire; described in the census of 1881 as “servant Monthly Nurse”. She comes at the end of the listing of house-, parlour-, and nursery-maids. Unlike other domestics, she would not have been a “permanent” hire. (The “monthly” nurse really did only stay a month.)

And we can see, among the family members listed on the census, the reason behind the Monthly Nurse’s visit: the recent birth of Honor Caroline Austen Leigh. An interesting side note: Mrs. Hall-Say (reproduced as ‘Hallsay’), Mrs. Austen Leigh’s mother, was also visiting at the time of the census! (Census night was 3 April 1881.)

A quick internet search leads to the conclusion that many conflate “midwife” and “monthly nurse”. They are not synonymous.

(A Monthly Nurse also did not ‘nurse’ the child; if the mother had difficulty, a wet-nurse was sought.)

In my findings (albeit among generations of the same family), there was always a doctor (an accoucheur) attending the child’s birth; if “in time” (some mothers were wrong at their reckoning!) the Monthly Nurse might have been present, but her duties were mainly discharged during the month of postpartum recovery of the mother.

I can never forget the number of mothers in my 2015 JASNA audience who raised their hands, wishing they had had the services of a Monthly Nurse!

It is needless to say, the women I researched delivered in what we would think of as ‘home-births’; the Monthly Nurse ‘lived-in.’

Although I won’t list here every step taken during the month, there was a progression from being in bed to rising a few hours a day; to walking around one’s room, then walking more within the residence and coming downstairs for a meal; the end of the confinement was signaled by the comments of the mother being churched; the child being christened; the departure of the Monthly Nurse.

Side Notes:

  • In this period, children of Church of England parents were both Baptised and Christened; baptism took place soon after birth; christening occurred about the time of the mother being churched.
  • The youngest child of a family was typically referred to as BABY (although a name was given at the christening) — until the next baby came along!

royalsAs you might guess, concerning someone working so intimately with the new mother — although there were advertisements in the newspapers (see Pithers) by women offering their services (some would also offer care for the sick) – my ladies asked their circle of family and acquaintances for referrals and suggestions. They wanted their same Monthly Nurse from confinement to confinement when at all possible (Emma lost one jewel of a nurse to death).

Oddly, from the comment in one letter, it seems that the husband/father-to-be actually ENGAGED the Nurse, and PAID for her. But it was the women who were involved in finding suitable candidates.

The round of referrals doesn’t come as a surprise because the same could be said for more general servants. Letters consistently mention servants who were recommended to them by others, or by them if they were the ones who knew of someone in need of a position.

Letters have even sought comments (good or bad) from correspondents about prospective marital partners of friends. With the long tentacles that friends and family could reach, it was a remarkably effective system!

Along with the Monthly Nurse, letters make mention of “Baby Linen.” This was especially noted down in diaries – typically occurring in a list of names of women in the parish who were lent Baby Linen.

“Baby Linen” encompassed items for both ‘baby’ and ‘mother’. A fascinating list of the baby linen purchased and made for Elizabeth Austen, wife of Jane Austen’s brother (the future) Edward Austen Knight (mother of the children who show up in the George Hill photo album), in the 1790s, is included in the Brabourne edition of The Letters of Jane Austen (available online via Internet Archive); see pages 355-356 (vol. 2).

Emma’s Aunt, Mrs. Chute, had baby linen that could be given out on loan, according to her early diaries. And Emma followed suit, in the 1830s, in her diaries. How many sets each had available to lend out is unknown; lists typically do not show more than one woman at a given time. Mrs. Chute never had children of her own; I presume it was an additional set, rather than Emma’s own Baby Linen, that she offered other mothers and babies in the Parish of Tring Park (Hertfordshire), when she and James Edward Austen lived with Emma’s mother and younger siblings.

 

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My Dear Hamy

February 16, 2018 at 12:55 pm (books, british royalty) (, , , )

This book was reviewed in the latest JASNA News (the newsletter of the Jane Austen Society of North America) by Susan Allen Ford (the editor of Persuasions, the journal of JASNA); I’ve linked the review at the bottom, under “EXTRAS”.

My copy came via The National Archives bookshop; the author’s website is also a source for mail order. Other avenues may tell you the book is “unavailable” (Amazon.uk, for instance).

My Dear Hamy

My Dear Hamy, by Martin Thomas, is the tale of Anne Hayman – the one-time sub-governess to Princess Charlotte of Wales. Anne Hayman’s longer role was as Privy Purse to Princess Caroline.

My Dear Hamy is a LARGE book – over 700 pages.

From the author’s website:

“This book is the story of the lives of three feisty women – Caroline and Charlotte, of the blood royal, and Anne herself, the common sensed commoner. The world was rocking on its axis as Napoleon led the French into war with Britain and Europe. But as her husband progressed from mistress to mistress and squandered a fortune on gambling and excess, Caroline’s household too rocked with hushed up scandals and indiscretions.”

Martin Thomas had access to letters written by Hayman, as well as documents by (and about) the Princess of Wales. In addition, Thomas lives in the Welsh house first occupied by Hayman in the early 19th century. That coincidence sparked his research!

I’m in the midst of reading – and enjoying – My Dear Hamy.

You can get a taste of the book by reading excerpts on the author’s site. One current online review is by Alistair Lexden.

A bit of judicious editing could have tightened the narrative, and eradicated the more egregious typos. As well, some analysis of the quoted passages from letters would have better guided the reader and, perhaps, kept the author from jumping to conclusions (without considering all possibilities) about the quite-intricate manoeuvering happening within the circle of the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Princess Caroline’s story is an oft-told one, but Hayman’s life – and her position within the Princess’ household – is an area of research which is most welcome.

EXTRAS:

 

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Missed Opportunity: Clarissa Trant Diary

August 7, 2015 at 8:17 am (books, diaries, history, people) (, , , , , )

As mentioned in a couple of places, I’ve been finding some nice tidbits at the blog of the Essex Record Office (ERO). This one disheartened me a bit: in January 2015 they had an original diary written by Clarissa Trant (later, Mrs John Bramston) on display!

trant diary

I first “met” Clarissa Trant through her published journals, long before I ever knew that she was sort of affiliated with my Smiths & Goslings: John Bramston once proposed to Emma’s sister Charlotte Smith! He was a neighbor to the Smiths of Suttons, living at Skreens.

I well remember taking a few moments out of my research at Duke University to take a look at the microfilm of Clarissa’s later diaries: had she said anything about the death of Mary Lady Smith? Alas: it seemed not! There that was, after John was refused (1830), some amount of tension between him and the Smiths is evident – for mention is made of its slight abatement later. But how that extended to his new household I cannot really say: the Smiths likewise didn’t mention HER either (except when news of their engagement went around; John had written to Spencer Smith, informing him – and thereby information ALL the Smiths, as he must have known).

In honor of the 200th anniversary of Waterloo, Clarissa’s early journal, of 1815, was chosen as “Document of the Month” for January 2015. The archive had the diary on DISPLAY that month! Ah, a missed opportunity, though I’ve not visited ERO for eight years.

THIS JUST IN: ERO’s blog also had a post called “Could this be our smallest document?” It turns out to have belonged to CLARISSA TRANT!!! Click the link to see what it is, and they have to store it. I bet you 5p that you’ll be surprised!!!

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Elite Ladies of the North

September 2, 2014 at 9:07 pm (estates, history) (, , , , , , )

Was looking at the online “sample” copy of WOMEN’S HISTORY MAGAZINE; it’s from 2011 – but a wealth of information means it’s still worth a look, three years later.

My favorite story is by Julie Day, writing on “Household Management as a method of authority for three 18th Century Elite Yorkshire Women” – which focusses on three women: Sabine Winn, of Nostell Priory; Frances Ingram of Temple Newsam; and Elizabeth Worsley of Hovingham Hall. I cannot stress enough how fascinating an article was made by intertwining these lives; the focus is on finances and household management. HIGHLY recommended.

In looking for more on author Julie Day, I put my hands on the following that may also interest you, after reading the article:

Sabine Winn

Sabine Winn

Frances Ingram

Frances Ingram

 

 

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International Women – a Bit of a Rant

March 10, 2011 at 8:13 pm (news, people) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

I was sorry to be waylaid by snow (and MORE and more and even MORE snow), here in New England, and be unable to post ANYTHING about International Women’s Day — IWD marked its 100th anniversary on Tuesday, March 8th.

See IWD’s website: http://www.internationalwomensday.com/

I am fairly apolitical, but certainly “dream” of a world of decency towards all, equality of the sexes, equal wages, equal opportunity — and am smart enough to know I’ll never live to see such things. (“Dreamers” see solutions to world problems, but no one listens.)

At the same time, it really annoys me when people, discussing Austen’s era, disparage the idea of women of the “leisure class” having nothing to do and how boring their lives must have been because they couldn’t go out and work, must marry and have children, must be under the thumb of father, husband or brother.

My Smiths and Goslings of course would be included here. And they were people not under anyone’s thumb (you’ve never seen anyone more formidable than Mamma Smith!); they also had money enough to live without marrying — but the girls chose to do so. Choice is something many today don’t have: we must work, even at jobs we hate, just to pay the bills. So who’s to say that “today” is better than “yesterday”? It really all depends on the individual.

I adore the arts. Lament that my parents were not encouraging when, in grade 5 or 6, I wanted to take up the drums (you can guess why they were not encouraging! however: I never learned to read music…). I grew up in a small Vermont city with no one in my life who was interested in plays, theater, concerts (which were as active then as today). I found those things, later, on my own. I enjoy working for hours and days and months on a writing assignment; it fills my mind when I write. I cannot imagine a house devoid of books (even Andy Rooney, last Sunday, spoke of Kindles and real books!).

In short, I would KILL for a life as lived by young Emma Smith and Mary Gosling: drawing lessons from artists; trips away from a country home (quiet!!!) to the bustle of London for the ‘season’; concerts and operas and plays enjoyed and understood; time to read; time to learn foreign languages — and money enough to go on trips to those foreign lands!

Now, I recognize that not everyone would have talent for, or even like, pursuits like drawing, music, travel, reading, learning. But some also don’t care to spend time in an office. Some people are Career-minded; Career with a capital C. Some are nurturers and want a homelife and children. Some work to live rather than live to work. Some are artistic — and just wish artists didn’t traditionally ‘starve to death’.

I’m sure there were women in the 19th century who wanted to “work” for a living (and were disparaged for it, if they did it), just as there are women today who would rather be home (and are disparaged for it). Every individual tries to do what brings them enjoyment; some are less successful than others; some just never have the opportunity to rise to their particular potential. Roadblocks exist, have existed, and will exist. I don’t fit into my “world,” but have tried and am trying to carve a new niche. None of us represent an era, a generation, or women in general. We are each only ourself.

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