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Women and Survival in Victorian times

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posted on Jun, 16 2011 @ 01:30 PM
With so much renewed interest in women survival issues I thought to compose my own thread... and if you follow my threads you know I love to look back at historical events

When we talk about SHTF we most often think back to what are grandparents and great grandparents lived through... what was life like for them... how did they survive???? Well quite often they didn't survive for long...
I've drawn on a number of sources for this


average life expectancy = 40 years

Mid-Victorian Era life expectancy = Liverpool = 15!!!!

3 out of every 20 babies die before their first birthday

1899 upper class Liverpool = 136 newborns out of 1000 would die before the age of 1

Working class = 274 infant deaths per 1000 births

Impoverished slums = 509 infant deaths per 1000 births

Alexander Finlaison reported = 1/2 of all children of farmers, laborers, artisans, & servants died before 5th birthday compared to 1 in 11 children of the land owning gentry

children suffer = influenza outbreaks, diphtheria, scarlet fever, measles, whooping cough, polio, tetanus, and typhoid

poor sanitary conditions (no piped water, lack of immunizations, etc.) contribute to death rate

All have bad breath because of poor dentistry
(modern research indicates poor dental hygiene has a direct correlation to earlier death rates)

Women ...

• died younger (childbirth, inferior food consumption, tended to nurse sick which led to own sickness, etc.)

• Societal expectations of rich women = delicate, not “ladylike” to exercise or have an appetite

•custom = best food given to boys / men (females suffered)... amazingly, this contradicted the notion of the rich that women were weaker ... obviously, weaker vessels needed to have the best food and not the men ... but folks are never consistent & may never be logical (now or then)

Lower classes ... debilitated by the age of forty due long hours, poor nutrition (frequently malnutrition), and premature full-time employment = early death cause

1840 London’s Whitechapel District = (average rates)
Upper class =45 years
Tradesmen = 27 years
Laborers & servants = 22 years

[Source: Mitchell, Sally. Victorian Britain Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing, 1988.
Mitchell, Sally. Daily Life in Victorian England. Westport, CN: Greenwood Press, 1996]

Coffins are a Familiar Sight

Cholera = pandemic in Europe in 1831-33, 1848-49, 1853-54, 65-67
( London, 53 000 died in one year)

But if you think all women of this era well all about bustles and corsets think again... back then women were tough... let me tell you the story of just one most remarkable woman Cathy Williams

Cathay Williams

In a tiny shotgun cabin
Martha's baby girl was born.
A baby born to slavery
That no one could forewarn.

Cathay Williams was determined
And never was deterred
As she began her life as a house girl
Being seen but never heard.

Then the Civil War broke out
And the Union soldiers came
And taking Cathay with them
Her life would never be the same.

Cathay learned the ways of military life
And became an accomplished cook.
She was sent to General Sheridan
A job she proudly undertook.

Then the Civil War was ended
And Cathay was finally free
And in seeking out her freedom,
She found her place in history.

Her own way she needed to make
And a burden to no one be
So as a Buffalo Soldier she joined up
In the 38th U. S. Infantry.

Cathay Williams became William Cathay
And no one was to know
The secret of her identity
As a soldier she did grow.

The troops moved west to Ft. Cummings
To keep the Apache at bay.
There were one hundred and one enlisted men
And among them was William Cathay.

After two years as a soldier
In the 38th Company A
William went to see the doctor
And her secret came out that day

Discharged as a Buffalo Soldier
Cathay did her very best
As she continued to make her way
In this land they called the West.

Because of her illegal enlistment
Her pension passed her by
But she picked herself up and moved on
And never questioned why.

Life ended for Cathay Williams
At the age of eighty-two
She lived a long independent life
A life that was tried but true.

A salute to Cathay Williams
The hero of this rhyme
A special woman of the west
A legend in her time.

The full story of Cathy Williams can be found here

So ladies remember you are stronger than you think and quite capable of more than you can imagine... if we ever do have a SHTF remember our history books are over flowing with notable women and who knows maybe someday your name will joins theirs
edit on 16-6-2011 by DaddyBare because: (no reason given)

edit on 16-6-2011 by DaddyBare because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 16 2011 @ 01:58 PM
Thanks DaddyBare!!!

I had never heard of Cathy Williams, she sounds like she was amazing and strong! Your beginning statistics were a bit depressing, I knew it had been bad, but not that bad.

I choose to learn everything I can, and try to do as much as I can myself. Husbands are handy to have around, if you have one, to do "manly stuff", but mine never complains if I just fix something myself. LOL

I want to be able to fend for my self, if it becomes necessary!

posted on Jun, 16 2011 @ 02:03 PM
reply to post by DaddyBare

Is there some reason why you put forward the English side as weak, disease prone etc but then to illustrate that not all were like that you chose an American woman?

Why don't you look up some information on death rates in the US in those times? This is just typical American superior ego - and wrong!

posted on Jun, 16 2011 @ 02:07 PM
reply to post by chiefsmom

ya know what did them in right... poor sanitary conditions improper hygiene...
if they only knew half of what we know today...

there is a second lesson I didn't cover in this thread... but then and now... were have the same problem...
to best illustrate that annoying problem let my draw on this analogy...

if you put too many rats in a small cage and limit/restrict their resources... they will start killing each other... now think of places like Detroit and LA and you Begin to understand the deepest roots of our social troubles

posted on Jun, 16 2011 @ 02:10 PM
reply to post by PuterMan

well no... frankly it was not my American ego but rather a lack of published stats....

Record keeping in the new world was horrible during this time... in this new world... but the Europeans keep long lengthy records on everything.... sorry if it seems I'm picking on you but this was a simple case of yours are the only record of what was really going on back then

as for my choice of American women... I just learned about her in Black History Month so she's still fresh in my mind
edit on 16-6-2011 by DaddyBare because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 16 2011 @ 02:14 PM
reply to post by DaddyBare

Yeah, like the old saying, it's the little things that'll get you!

As for the second issue, If things do go from bad to worse, I'm glad I am not very close to Detroit, or even Lansing for that matter. I like the whole small town, country living, small population thing. If I could afford to move right now, I would go even smaller!

posted on Jun, 17 2011 @ 02:32 PM
reply to post by DaddyBare

It is OK. I was not being too serious!!

There were some tough European cookies as well.

posted on Jun, 18 2011 @ 09:31 AM
reply to post by PuterMan

If you can dig up a link on some of those tough old European birds I'm sure we'd all like to read them...
I for one learn a lot from the past...

As I said before... mainly the church were fanatical about record keeping there... but here... most of our history is more along the lines of legends... embellishing maybe a bit too much... I doubt Davey Crockett Really wrestled a bear unless it was a very old sick bear half drunk on whisky... if ya know what I mean

posted on Jun, 18 2011 @ 10:28 AM
There is a grave local to me marked thus

In Memory of Phoebe Hessel Who was born at Stepney in the year 1713. She served for many years As a private Soldier in the 5th Regiment of foot In different parts of Europe, And in the year 1745 fought under the command Of the Duke of Cumberland, At the Battle of Fontenoy, Where she received a Bayonet Wound in her Arm. Her long life, which commenced in the time of Queen Anne, Extended to the reign of George IV, By whose munificence she received comfort And support in her latter Years. She died at Brighton, where she long resided, December 12th, 1821, Aged 108 years.

A she-soldier living to 108 years must have been a tough bird in my book. but I do not know how well my notion of tough transposes across the pond.. if it does there are plenty of other examples in Britain of the same..

Thank you for sharing the story of Cathy Williams tho I am unsure how the quality of American life stacks against the quality of life in Britain at the time.

I would have thought American ladies would have been better off during the same period (but lack the knowledge to know if that is just my bias)
edit on 18/6/11 by thoughtsfull because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 18 2011 @ 10:35 AM
reply to post by thoughtsfull

Phoebe Hessel lived to be 108 at that particular time in history puts her at the top of the tough old bird category my friend... you are right that the battles and monarchs are lost on me... but I understand the nature of combat on a personal level... can only imagine what it would have been like in her day....

truly a European woman of note my hats off to Phoebe Hessel

posted on Jun, 18 2011 @ 11:20 AM
reply to post by DaddyBare

I have many American relatives and some times some things just do not transpose as the same..

I can not imagine what combat was like back then.. one lady.. Hannah Snell (I beleive a Marine) was so intent on keeping her gender a secret on the field of combat that when wounded she pulled the musket ball out herself.. and another Trooper Kit Welsh even ended up in duel with her sergeant.. killing him..

I have to wonder how many thousands of other brave women down the centuries have slipped us by completely unnoticed..

this reminds me of a British folk song.

This is the Steeleye Span version "Female Drummer" but each part of Britain had their own version committed into folk lore.
edit on 18/6/11 by thoughtsfull because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 18 2011 @ 08:51 PM
I was born into a family of strong women, freakishly strong in some cases. All of my great aunt's (my father's father's sisters) were all in the military. On the same side of the family only from my grandmother's side, the women were equally as tough as they were farm girls. They worked hard on the farms right along side the boys and men. By the time I came around I was surrounded by men (teachers, church, ect..) that told me I didn't need to learn wood working, how to work on cars, go to college, ect.. all because I was a girl. Good thing for me that my parents believed otherwise. I can cook, sew, garden, can/preserve foods, fish, hunt, work on my own car, do my own household repairs, some minor plumbing, work on a farm, and the list goes on and on. I never worry about if anything bad happens because I know I am capable of survival. I can do more than survive, I can succeed and live well. All because the things that were one time reserved only for boys or men were taught to me. I am a fiery red headed woman who isn't afraid to live life well. My grandpa was part Apache Indian and I remember him telling me that I could do anything I put my mind to and if anyone ever tried to tell me otherwise that I wasn't to listen to a word they had to say.

My concern is that women will not see what they are capable of because they have listened to the men who tell them they can't do as much, that they are not as strong or that they are in some way inferior. It isn't often that men will flat out say they are better or stronger, but it is always implied. Women need to stop looking to men for approval and look within to find our own strength. I don't know who said it, but I remember reading a quote once and it seems fitting for this conversation. “Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”

And since we are discussing women.. my most favorite quote ever about women is by Robert A. Heinlein “Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.”

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