March is Woman's History month.A aspect of woman's history and cemetery's is early burials of woman who had died in childbirth or shortly thereafter.Sometimes the headstones make it apparent what happened and other times it is only a educated guess.
Some of the statistics I have seen state 1 in 100 live births ended in death of the mother in the early 1900's in the U.S. In the 1800's the numbers were sometimes as high as 40% in some places.In contrast the numbers today in the United States is 11 in 100,00, but sadly, on the rise.Mostly from lack of prenatal care and pre-existing medical conditions.
Interestingly,while doing research on my early Californiano ancestors I have read quotes by white American newcomers marveling at the fecundity of Californiano family's.It is not unusual to find family's while doing research with 15 or more living children from one woman.I have one with 22 in my own family tree! A mild climate and ample food supply no doubt helped with this. Certainly woman died in childbirth here as well(one of my 5 great grandmothers was one) in the early days and Native American woman especially.The recent discovery of book written by a padre at one of the California missions highlights their high rate of maternal deaths. The book gives instructions on performing a crude C-section in a attempt to save the baby's of doomed native mothers.
Californiano woman sometimes looked down on the newcomers having so much trouble with pregnancy and childbirth and blamed it on their wearing of corsets! Probably some truth there!
Remember that till well into the last century most woman spent their entire adult lives,pregnant, or about to be pregnant.
Here are some headstones I have come across in my cemetery travels that have touched me especialy.
This simple,concrete marker in St. Joseph's Cemetery in Sacramento is wearing away with time.
These two headstones are side by side in the historic old Sacramento city cemetery,I have often wondered if they are sisters.If a woman survived the initial birth of her child complications and weakness from birth left them vulnerable.Even if a child survived birth, if the mother perished the baby had slim chances if there was no wet nurse.Animal milk and water supply's were usually contaminated.
Mary Tubbs and her son lie in the Sloughhouse Pioneer cemetery.Mary would bury her baby at 18 and follow him 2 years later.
Life was often harsh in the "good old days" but it was especially hard for the so called "weaker sex".
Anyone who has ever walked a old cemetery would have to disagree about the weaker part I think.Sometimes I have to marvel that so many woman managed to live and brought forth decendents.We owe them no doubt.And I have no desire to live like the "good old days",thank you very much!
Alfred Walter Stark--Photographer Extraordinaire
2 weeks ago