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Scarlet Fever Epidemic

During the summer of 1787 in Hallowell, Maine, Martha Ballard found herself busy with two of her major duties as a midwife: delivering babies and tending the sick. The entries from the diary for the months of June, July, August, and September show the evidence of Group A hemolytic streptococci attacking the populace as scarlet fever, puerperal fever, and infected wounds. Working before germ theory had explained the connection, Martha had no way of knowing that "strep," as we call it, was responsible for all three manifestations in her patients.

The symptoms of scarlet fever were sore throat, rash, and possible death. Martha and her contemporaries called it canker rash. Puerpural fever occurred after childbirth and could kill both mother and child. No antibiotics were available to help with scarlet fever, puerpural fever, or infected wounds. People did not even know that cleanth and antiseptic conditions could stem the spread of the disease from patient to patient.

Look in the following entries for evidence of an epidemic. A subplot in one entry involved Martha herself. On August 13 she noted the death of little Willy McMaster, whose mother was pregnant with another child. Martha wrote, "Poor mother, how Distressing her case..." Perhaps the case brought back the memory of the summer of 1769 when Martha lost three of her own young children to a diptheria epidemic in Oxford, Massachusetts. Like Mrs. McMaster, Martha birthed her daughter Hannah (on August 6, 1769) during an epidemic that took another child's life. Check the August 6, 1787 entry, when Martha noted Hannah's birthday.

For more, see the film A Midwife's Tale and Chapter One of the book A Midwife's Tale.

  There are 88 entries for this theme:
1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 51-60 | 61-70 | 71-80 | 81-88
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June 3, 1787, Sunday

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3 G



Clear morn, a Storm before night. Son Town went from here. Fosters foot much Sweld. I poultised it. Joseph Fosters wife here this night. Hannah at Capt Porters. Hannah Cool at mr Williamss. Philip Norcroses wife Deliverd of a Dafter 31st of may last. Pamela has a pain in her head this Day.  


June 4, 1787, Monday

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4 2



Rainy. mrs Foster went away. Hannah Came from mr Portors. Becky Wiman is Better. mr Ballard been to meet thee Select men. I have been at home Doubling yarn for harnes. Hannah Cool got the web out, 35-1/2 yds. there was 93 Skeins of yarn filld into it. Dolly run a nail into her foot. mrs Foster had 10 pills of me.  


June 5, 1787, Tuesday

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5 3



mr Ballard Laying out Rhod by Capt Sewalls. I have been at home. Dolly very lame.  


June 8, 1787, Friday

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8 6


XXX Birth of Stutely Springers Son. XX.

Clear. mrs Springer grew very ill about 1 O Clok ys morn. Calld her women and was Safe Deliverd at 11 of a fine Son. I left her Comfortable & returnd at 3 pm. mrs Bisbee & Lidia Came home with me. mrs Voce here Bakeing. old mr Cowen & wife & Son Drank Tea here. Georg Couch Departed this Life last wedns day Eving. was interd y s Day.  


June 9, 1787, Saturday

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9 7



Clear part of the day, a Shower afternn. mr Ballard Came from Surveying at Wings. I Combd flax. Nathan Howard tarries here this night. Hannah Cool Bot a gown patron at mr Franks. Georg Couch was interd this afternoon at the fort. mrs Voce & Betsy went on Board the vesel Bound for Boston this morn.  


June 10, 1787, Sunday

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10 G



Clear & hott. I attended public worship, went to mrs Howard to See ibbe, Shee is Sick.. mr Fought & Clarisa Barton Dind here. Danneil Robbins is unwell. mr Howard went from here this morn. mr Williams & wife & mr Hamlin Drank Tea here.  


June 11, 1787, Monday

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11 2



Clear & hott, a Shower before night. I went to Capt Sewalls to See his Child Sick with the rash, find it very ill. was at mrs Howards, her Dafter is mending. Calld at Capt Porters, took 8/ which Isaac Hardin left for me for atending his wife, and 1/ more. the articles were 3 fanns.  


June 12, 1787, Tuesday

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12 3



Clear. Hannah Cool warpt our gouns and went to mr Densmors to have her goun Cut out. mr Ballard went to the hook on an arbetration. I was Calld to Capt Sewalls to See his Child, find it very Sick indeed. I hear that mr William Gardner Departed this Life yesterday. I Sett up with Billy Sewall all night.  


June 13, 1787, Wednesday

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13 4



I was at Capt Sewalls the most of the Day. old mrs Fletcher Came there & I came away. Crost the river in the Boat, the wind very high. I Calld at mr Pollards, Colo Norths. Lisy Cosen unwell. I was at mr Williamss. Sally Peirce here. mr Gardners remains are to be interd this day.  


June 14, 1787, Thursday

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14 5



I heard Capt Sewalls Son was Dead, hear it Contradicted. went there, find it very Low. Sett up with it this Night. his wife is Sick.  
  There are 88 entries for this theme:
1-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 51-60 | 61-70 | 71-80 | 81-88
next 10 >

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