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In Their Own Words

March 23, 1852

Infant Death Recorded in Journal

The death of a mother or infant during childbirth was a common occurrence. On this day, such a tragedy struck Gertrude Clanton in Richmond County, when a new-born brother died during delivery. It was a painful experience that she herself would later face – four of the ten children she bore did not survive infancy:

“… I was interrupted last evening while writing … when I returned I found Ma quite sick. She had been taken while we were at church. We sent for Dr. Joe Eve. He came and remained until three o’clock. I was up until five the next morning when I lay down on the sofa in the sitting room and slept till after seven. Ma being so ill Sister and I remained in the nursery. About three Ma gave birth to an infant boy but mortality ne’re gained immortality for he never breathed. Early yesterday morning I arose for the purpose of seeing to breakfast as I now occupy the responsible situation of housekeeper in lieu of Ma. After giving out dinner I was engaged in conversation till near dinner when I dressed for the day… . Although death is at seasons and places solemn yet never having known and loved this child I could not lament as I would otherwise have done. After returning I took my writing desk and seating myself upon a footstool in the small balcony wrote for some time in my Journal. After tea I intended writing but Mr. Thomas called. He remained until after ten oclock. Thinks of leaving off the practice or rather the study of medicine for another year… .” [Editor’s note: Mr. Thomas would eventually become her husband. He never returned to the study of medicine, a decision they both regretted deeply as financial problems beset them throughout their marriage.]

Source: Virginia Ingraham Burr (ed.), The Secret Eye: The Journal of Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas, 1848-1889 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), p. 102.