The Midwife's Revolt - Jodi Daynard

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

Text 2015 Jodi Daynard

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Lake Union Publishing, Seattle

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str2-13: 9781477828007

str2-10: 1477828001

Cover design by Elsie Lyons

Library of Congress Control Number: 2014953297

Contents

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Epilogue

Acknowledgments

A Note from the Author

About the Author

I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could.

—Abigail Adams to John Adams

March 31, 1776

1

OCTOBER 18, 1818. My father once told me I had the mind of a man. He meant to say I was a freak of nature, as was—so he suspected—my mother. But I feel no such mind within me now. Now I am soft and tired and feel like weeping, though I cannot bring forth any tears.

In death, Abigail rests peacefully. The fever that had her body trembling for near two weeks is gone. The fluid no longer rattles in her poor chest. And the telltale rash of the typhus has begun to fade on her belly.

She lies in the master chamber at Peacefield, her beloved home in Braintree. But Abigail is no longer. They say that in her youth she looked like Venus: fair and so harmonious in all her parts that men grew awkward around her. But John was never awkward in her presence. A fiery Humpty Dumpty to the laughing world, around his Portia he grew tall and handsome.

He called her Portia after faithful Brutus’s wife, but she is no Portia now. Her body, at seventy-two, has wasted to skin and bone. The assaults she bore—the deaths of Charles and poor Nabby, her eldest, who died in agony in this very room of a cancer in the breast—lie upon her as defeated folds of flesh. Calluses mark her fingers from days and years of sewing, husking, weaving, and gathering. And there are faded burn marks, too—on her arms, elbows, and palms, scorched often through the years while her mind was on other things. She hardly felt them but wondered afterward from whence they had come. And all those years away from John—those marks are there, as well, around the eyes I have shut, in lines that tell the pain of loss. I will anoint them with precious rose oil. I will put balm on her lips and hands and rub it in gently with the love I still feel and have felt for her for more than forty years.

I look out the window at Abigail’s gardens. The roses and hollyhocks are gone to sleep for the winter, but violet asters and pink sedum still line the paths. The maples have rained their gold, red, and orange leaves upon the ground. The wind has scattered them about; no one has thought to rake them. Her last sojourn into the garden had been with John, to pick apples for a pie. But in these two weeks, John has halted all work, except to feed the animals.

One day last week, she seemed to revive. And when she looked out her window across the grounds to where the orchards lay, she was appalled that the apples, bursting with ripeness, had not been picked.

“John!” she called, although Dr. Holbrook had forbidden her to speak. “Fetch John, Louisa.”

Louisa Smith is her niece, the daughter of Abigail’s brother, William Smith; she stays here in the guest room. A bright and obliging woman of youthful middle age, Louisa ran to fetch John, who, believing his wife to be out of danger, had gone to work in his study down the hall.

He came running, panic on his face.

“John”—she turned upon hearing his footsteps—“why are the apples not picked? They will rot.”

“My love, I told the boys to put off their farm work while you were ill. I didn’t want the noise to disturb you.”

“Nonsense,” Abigail replied. I thought I saw her smile faintly. “They must carry on, or it shall all go to waste. I couldn’t bear that.”

She glanced at me then, and I knew we were both recalling the summer of the terrible drought in 1778, when