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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Midwives in Early 17th Century Boston, Massachusetts and Witchcraft

My latest manuscript, tentatively titled, “A Place Between,” is about the famous William and Ann Hutchinson family.

Ann Hutchinson was the mother of fifteen children, and a skilled midwife for many of the women in early Boston. During her 1638 trial before the Boston authorities, one of the magistrates, a William Bartholomew, claimed that he heard a statement of Ann’s that sounded “very strange and witchlike that she should say so.” The whisperings of witchcraft during Ann’s trial did not take hold, lacking the requirement of hard evidence, and though she was excommunicated and banished from Boston, she was not openly accused of being a witch.
In her book about Ann Hutchinson, “American Jezebel,” Eve LaPlante wrote that witch hunting did not begin in Salem in 1690, but had been a part of English society for a long time. Statutes against witchcraft had been passed by monarchs Queen Elizabeth, Henry VIII, and King James. Though not considered to be heresy, witchcraft was a felony, punishable by hanging. LaPlante offered the opinion that “men of the period tended to view midwifery, a realm of power from which they were excluded, with suspicion. English law prohibited midwives from using witchcraft, charms, or sorcery (169).”

While researching, I came across other midwives of that time period that were accused of witchcraft. A woman named Jane Hawkins, the main midwife in Boston when Ann Hutchinson arrived in 1634, was suspected by John Winthrop of being a witch. In his journal entry in April 1638, he wrote:  for it was credibly reported, that, when she gave any medicines (for she practiced physic), if she did believe, she could help her.” Jane was prohibited from practicing as a midwife, and, along with Ann Hutchinson, Jane was expelled from Boston in 1638.

A midwife and healer, Margaret Jones, was the first woman to be executed in Boston for witchcraft. Her husband was also accused, and imprisoned, but later released. Margaret was suspected of practicing witchcraft because she had declared her patients would not recover unless they took her medicines. When some did not recover, the accusation took hold. The accusations against Margaret were recorded in John Winthrop’s journal:
"That she was found to have such a malignant touch, as many persons, men, women, and children, whom she stroked or touched with any affection or displeasure, or etc. [sic], were taken with deafness, or vomiting, or other violent pains or sickness. 
She practices physic, and her medicines being such things as, by her own confession, were harmless, — as anise-seed, liquors, etc., — yet had extraordinary violent effects. 
She would use to tell such as would not make use of her physic, that they would never be healed; and accordingly their diseases and hurts continued, with relapse against the ordinary course, and beyond the apprehension of all physicians and surgeons. 
Some things which she foretold came to pass accordingly; other things she would tell of, as secret speeches, etc., which she had no ordinary means to come to the knowledge of. 
She had, upon search, an apparent teat ... as fresh as if it had been newly sucked; and after it had been scanned, upon a forced search, that was withered, and another began on the opposite side. 
In the prison, in the clear day-light, there was seen in her arms, she sitting on the floor, and her clothes up, etc., a little child, which ran from her into another room, and the officer following it, it was vanished. The like child was seen in two other places to which she had relation; and one maid that saw it, fell sick upon it, and was cured by the said Margaret, who used means to be employed to that end. Her behavior at her trial was very intemperate, lying notoriously, and railing upon the jury and witnesses, etc., and in the like distemper she died. The same day and hour she was executed, there was a very great tempest at Connecticut, which blew down many trees, etc."
Margaret was hung June 15, 1648 upon Gallow’s Hill on Boston Neck.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Going back in time...

What kind of research goes into writing a time-travel novel? Do you need some kind of time machine like the DeLorean (from Back to the Future)…or will a penny be enough to whisk you back in time?

I'm fascinated with time-travel stories…and movies. Every writer puts a different spin on their plot, which is what I love. It’s so intriguing to read how someone from our time can be sent back (or forward) to another dimension. I love reading how that person adjusts—or at least tries to adjust—to their new world, and then what steps they take to return to their own time.

Over the years, many movies have grabbed my curiosity mainly because of the time-travel element. In BackTo the Future, Doc & Marty tried to create a new way to get Marty back home—without messing up the time-continuum. The intrigue of waiting for that moment, and almost not making it, kept me captivated.  In Timeline it was the fast-paced story of trying to find the one man they were sent back in time to get, only to have everything go wrong at every turn.  In Kate& Leopoldokay, mainly I loved this story because of the romance, and hullo—Hugh Jackman! (heehee) But I loved how he was sent forward in time, only for her to go back in time. Loved that concept!   And with Somewhere In Time, (dreamy sigh) it was a wonderful romance that lasted throughout the years, combined with the romantic music…(another sigh). Yes, that is one of my all-time favorites.

I think one of the reasons I like time-travels so much is because I find myself thinking about how I would change my life if I knew what I did and could travel back in time to change it… I also think of how I would like to experience the 1800’s (Regency or even Victorian England) if just for a week; to see what the gentlemen were really like, and how the women of those times really behaved. After a week though, I’m sure I’d want to return to my own time.

I have written a couple of time-travel novels. Each one has a different twist to the time-travel element. I tried to combine all the things I enjoy reading or watching movies that make the storyline interesting. I invite you to check out “Waiting forYou”, and coming soon, “Love Lost inTime”.
How would you feel if you were suddenly whisked back in time? What era would you like to end up in??


What type of time-travel stories to you like to read or watch? Please leave a comment (with your name and email) for a chance to win an ebook of my story, “Waiting for You”.

 About the author

Marie Higgins is a best-selling, multi-published author of sweet romance; from refined bad-boy heroes who make your heart melt to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to love them regardless of their faults. Visit her website / blog to discover more about her –


Friday, October 5, 2018

The Gentleman's Sport of Rowing, Early 19th Century Britain

Row, row, row your boat, swiftly down the Thames...

From The Telegraph, "Boat Race 2015" by Rachel Quarrell
Link to Article
Rowing is one of the oldest sports known to man and began as a necessary part of ancient life. If you lived on the shores of a river in the ancient world, you most likely would like to get across from time to time. So, you needed a boat and rowers. Historians believe the Ancient Egyptians would've been the first to "row for sport," with boatmen challenging each other to races or the wealthy pitting their slaves against each other to see whose fancy river barge was faster. 

While boat races have been going on for a very long time, they started getting popular among England's young elite in the late 18th century. All those young sons of noblemen and wealthy gentlemen needed something more to occupy their time than their classes at Oxford, and since there was a river a stone's throw away, why not? (The River Isis was their favorite spot.)

For the most part, these races took place between friends, and though Rowing Clubs were established, university students didn't actively compete against rival universities for a few decades. The first race known to have taken place between Oxford and Cambridge, kicking off what has been a rivalry for nearly two centuries, didn't take place until 1829. This race is such a big deal, and so early established, that it's official name is simply The Boat Race. (As an aside, one of the Oxford rowers at this first famous race, Charles Wordsworth, later went on to be the Bishop of Saint Andrews. And apparently most of the credit for instigating the race goes to him. He was twenty years old at the time.)

Before long, private clubs were formed for amateur rowers, and the gambling books at White's have plenty of mentions of gentlemen racing one another. I found a news article in the London Chronicle, July 6, 1836, "Grand Rowing Match for a Purse of Sovereigns, Given by the Duke of Buccleuch." This race took place just outside of the House of Lords. The article mentions crowds of spectators. 

When we think of Regency men and their exercises, we often picture the few things we've seen in BBC productions: horse-back riding and fencing. Moving into the Victorian age, authors love to put their gentlemen in boxing clubs. But rowing, a sport which demands physical prowess, technique, teamwork, and often began attracting sportsmen at an early age, has been an important part of English athletics for a very long time. 

In my novel, Miss Devon's Choice, my hero is a graduate of Oxford and his absolute favorite exercise, especially to relieve frustration with my heroine's determined arguing, is rowing. 

Find out more about rowing here (and yes, I'll link Wikipedia, b/c the footnotes here are incredible):

Miss Devon's Choice
by Sally Britton

Sweet Regency Romance

An arranged marriage, a choice to love, and the hope for happily ever after.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Halloween Celebrations in Regency England

I am unfortunately a day late with this post, but as I am such a fan of October, I just couldn't let the opportunity pass to post on my favorite holiday. Hope you enjoy!

As October is the month of Halloween (at least I celebrate all month long), I thought I’d take a look at some traditions people might have observed in the Regency during this (currently) very popular holiday.

Ever heard of bobbing for apples on Halloween? What about tossing an apple peeling or roasting hazelnuts to find your future marriage partner? Staring into a mirror to reveal your spouse? How about carving jack ‘o lanterns?

All of these familiar (and not so familiar) activities were practiced during the Regency, although many were carried out in rural areas rather
than the parlors of London townhouses or country manor houses. Regency Society tended to ignore most of these celebrations.

The holiday itself was more religious in nature during this period, being the day before All Saint’s Day, a day of recognition for those who had died. A total of three days (October 31, November 1, and November 2) comprised the holiday: All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day. This was called Allhallowtide.

But the celebrations originated in Celtic rituals on Saimhain (sow-ain) night, marking the end of harvest and the beginning of winter. According to the ancient Celts, this day, All Hallows Eve, was a time when the barriers between our world and the “Otherworld” became thinner, and spirits could pass through to walk in our world.

Then where do the celebrations in the Regency come in? One of the traditions passed down from ancient times was the idea that on one day out of the year, spirits of one’s own family walked the earth and visited them seeking hospitality. Therefore, it became a custom to have celebrations with food, drink, and games that usually revolved around foretelling the future. One such game was bobbing for apples.

So at some parties in rural areas, single women might peel an apple, being careful not to break the peeling. Then she would toss the peel over her shoulder and it was supposed to land in the shape of a letter—the first letter of her future husband’s name. Another way to foretell your future husband was to put two hazelnuts in a fire side by side and name one for you and the other for the person you desired. If the nuts jumped apart as they heated, you were not meant to be with this person; however, if the two nuts roasted amicably together, then you would end up together. Unmarried women would go into a darkened room on All Hallows’ Eve and stare into a
mirror. If the face of a man appeared beside her, he was the man she would marry. If a skull appeared instead, then she would die before marrying.

Carving jack o’ lanterns was also popular in the Regency, though it too originated with Celtic celebrations. A turnip was the vegetable usually carved into a scary face in Ireland and Scotland, meant to frighten away spirits. The name comes from a 17th century Irish legend, Shifty or Stingy Jack who was so evil neither Hell nor Heaven would let him in. Therefore, he was doomed to wander the earth carrying a lantern.
So although the Regency didn’t have a huge celebration for Halloween, they did manage to enjoy this harvest festival in some very interesting ways.

My own Halloween story, Hearts at All Hallows’ Eve, is a sweet Regency that takes place at a masquerade ball on October 31, which would not have been typical, but could have been part of a round of Little Season entertainments. And it does take into consideration the widely held belief of spirits roaming the earth on this particular night. Why not check out this short story and get into the swing of the season early?