Welcome to H-SHEAR!

H-SHEAR is dedicated to enhancing scholarly communication on the history of the early American republic, during the period 1775 to 1860. The network is owned by H-Net, Humanities & Social Sciences Online, currently centered at Michigan State University.  Click here to learn more...


The latest from H-SHEAR...

Re: "Coloured" Doctress in 1818 Boston?

Hi, Mary. A woman who styled herself "Sarah Green, Indian Doctress" advertised sporadically in NYC African American newspapers from 1827 to at least 1838. While her race is unclear, she practiced in the primarily African American 6th Ward. A typical advertisement claims cures for "Piles, Dysentery, all kinds of Wounds and Bruises, also a remedy for the growing in of toenails and for oppression of the lungs, felons, fistulas, and the bite of a mad dog if application be made within twelve hours" (Freedom's Journal, 1 June 1827).

Re: "Coloured" Doctress in 1818 Boston?

My thanks to Linda, Daniel, and John for generously sharing their insights. I need to mention an error in my post, which no doubt misled Linda. The directory listing is for Rose Lyons, not Mary Lyons, whom most of us would associate with female education and evangelism. Linda, Rose Lyons does not appear in any other Boston Directory for 10 years either side of 1818, nor in any contemporary newspapers ads, which suggests her presence was fleeting. Daniel, thank you for your insights on Native American doctresses, which is what I'm leaning towards as an explanation for Rose Lyons' practice.

Re: "Coloured" Doctress in 1818 Boston?

Hello, Mary, This term signified a woman who was known in her broader community for being able to treat sickness and injuries, often with a range of domestic remedies. Although it's likely that some doctresses also delivered babies, it isn't strictly a synonym for a midwife. However, the term could easily refer to someone whose specialties included the ailments of women and young children. The term shows up in plantation records of the antebellum South. Some doctresses were known for specific therapies.