I ask because I think that a person has to actively search it out today, whereas in times past it was a fairly common hard candy.
Horehound is the common name of the Marrubium plant, a member of the mint family. Horehound has been used for centuries by many cultures to treat just about everything–fevers, malaria, snake bite, hepatitis, bites by rabid animals. It’s useful in treating digestive problems, respiratory problems, jaundice, parasitic worms. It is used as a poultice, and inhaled as a snuff. The leaves are boiled into tea and made into cough syrups.
And it’s also made into a candy, but after compiling that list, I kind of wonder why. I guess it’s like medicine candy.
If you are the adventuresome sort, it’s easy to make homemade horehound candy. To begin, you boil several handfuls of horehound leaves in water for 15-20 minutes, smooshing the leaves as they cook down. Then you let the brew sit for a spell so that the water becomes a horehound tea.
Strain the liquid from the leaves. This is where the math comes in. You’ll need to measure your liquid and add 4 times that amount of brown sugar. So if you have 1 cup of horehound tea, you’ll use 4 cups of brown sugar. Then, more math, you add light corn syrup in 1/4 the amount of the liquid. So again using 1 cup of tea, you’d add 1/4 cup of light corn syrup.
Cook this mixture to the hard crack stage (the liquid solidifies into a ribbon when you drop it into ice water) which is about 300 degrees if you go modern and use a candy thermometer. You pour the mixture into a buttered pan, then score the top while it’s soft so that you can break it into squares later.
We’re so happy to have Miss Charlene Raddon back visiting with us. She’s brought an interesting subject to talk about in addition to a giveaway at the bottom. Take us away, Charlene.
Thank you for having me. I’m so happy to be back. My image of a typical 19th-century family sitting down to supper used to include a table laden with healthy, wholesome, homemade foods. To a shocking degree, the truth is the opposite. Contamination was rife, even among foods prepared at home, on the farm or ranch. Few people understood germs, bacteria and E. coli. Foreign substances and chemicals tainted foods. By the 1840s, home-baked bread had supposedly died out among the rural poor. I find this hard to believe. But it is true that people living in small urban tenements, typically unequipped with ovens, bought their bread when they could afford it.
In 1872, Dr. Hassall, the primary health reformer and a pioneer investigator into food adulteration, demonstrated that half of the bread he examined had considerable quantities of alum. Alum lowers the nutritional value of foods by inhibiting the digestion. The list of poisonous additives from that time reads like the stock list of a wicked chemist: strychnine, cocculus inculus (both hallucinogens), and copperas in rum and beer; sulphate of copper in pickles, bottled fruit, wine, and preserves; lead chromate in mustard and snuff; sulphate of iron in tea and beer; ferric ferrocynanide, lime sulphate, and turmeric in Chinese tea; copper carbonate, lead sulphate, bisulphate of mercury, and Venetian lead in sugar confectionery and chocolate; lead in wine and cider. All were extensively used and accumulative in effect, meaning that, over a long period, in chronic gastritis, and, indeed, often fatal food poisoning.
Dairies watered down their milk then added chalk to put back the color. Butter, bread, and gin often had copper added to heighten the color. In London, where ice cream was called “hokey-pockey,” tested examples proved to contain cocci, bacilli, torulae, cotton fiber, lice, bed bugs, bug’s legs, fleas, straw, human hair, cat and dog hair. Such befouled ice cream caused diphtheria, scarlet fever, diarrhea, and enteric fever. Meat purchased from butchers often came from diseased animals.
A significant cause of infant mortality was the widespread practice of giving children narcotics, especially opium, to keep them quiet. Laudanum was cheap—about the price of a pint of beer—and its sale was unregulated until late in the century. The use of opium was widespread both in town and country. In Manchester, England, five out of six working-class families used the drug habitually. One druggist admitted to selling a half-gallon of a very popular cordial, which contained opium, treacle, water, and spices, as well as five to six gallons of a substance euphemistically called “quietness” every week. Another druggist admitted to selling four hundred gallons of laudanum annually. At mid-century at least ten proprietary brands, with Godfrey’s Cordial, Steedman’s Powder, and the grandly named Atkinson’s Royal Infants Preservative among the most popular, were available in pharmacies everywhere. Opium in pills and penny sticks was widely sold and opium-taking in some areas was described as a way of life. Doctors reported that infants were wasted from it—’shrunk up into little old men,’ ‘wizened like little monkeys’.
And what was the fate of those wizened little monkeys? Chances are the worst of them grew up in a “sanitorium” or an asylum for the mad. After all, we can’t have rich Aunt Matilda or the preacher’s wife seeing such a child. Or the child might be put in the attic to be raised by Grandma, who’s not quite right in the head.
Kept in a drugged state much of the time, infants generally refused to eat and therefore starved. Rather than record a baby’s death as being from severe malnutrition, coroners often listed ‘debility from birth,’ or ‘lack of breast milk,’ as the cause. Addicts were diagnosed as having alcoholic inebriety, morphine inebriety, along with an endless list of man dypsomania, opiomania, morphinomania, chloralomania, etheromania, chlorodynomania, and even chloroformomania; and – isms such as cocainism and morphinism. It wasn’t until WWI that the term “addiction” came into favor.
In the beginning, opium was considered a medical miracle used as the essential ingredient in many remedies dispensed in Europe and America for the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery, asthma, rheumatism, diabetes, malaria, cholera, fevers, bronchitis, insomnia, and pains of any sort.
One must remember that at this time, the physician’s cabinet was almost bare of alternative drugs, and a doctor could hardly practice medicine without it. A great many respectable people imbibed narcotics and alcohol in the form of patent medicines and even soft drinks. Coca Cola got its name because it originally contained a minute amount of cocaine, thought to be a healthy stimulant. A shocking number of “teetotaling” women relied on daily doses of tonics that, unknown to them, contained as much alcohol as whiskey or gin. Of course, it was no secret that men imbibed alcohol at alarming rates, and alcoholism was rampant. The result was a happy but less than healthy population.
I used this in my mail-order bride story, Forever Mine. The hero’s shrew of a wife had diabetes and treated it by drinking a tonic that promised to cure everything. It didn’t. In my book, Taming Jenna, the heroine’s missing father fell victim to dipsomania and was saved by the hero’s determination and kindness. In Thalia, Book 7 of the Widows of Wildcat Ridge Series, my heroine is in love with the town’s newspaper owner. Unfortunately, he suffers from dipsomania. It doesn’t faze Thalia though. She loves him anyway.
Is it any wonder the nineteenth century became known as “the good old days”?
What are your thoughts on this? Would you have drank Coca Cola if you knew it had cocaine in it? I’m giving away a $5 Amazon gift card plus a copy of one of these books—Forever Mine, Taming Jenna, or Thalia—to one person who comments. The drawing will be Sunday.
Charlene Raddon is an Amazon bestselling author of sixteen historical romance novels set in the American West. Originally published in 1994 by Kensington Books, she is now an Indie author. Charlene also designs book covers, specializing in western historical. You can find her covers at https://silversagebookcovers.com
One of the writer-related questions I get most often is where do my ideas come from. The answer is a bit complex. As a writer, I see stories everywhere – in snippets of conversation, in song lyrics, in throwaway scenes from movies and TV shows and just from everyday life. But story ideas are also very fragile – they can disappear like mist when the sun beats down or like dream fragments once you’re fully awake.
So, whenever I get an idea for a new story, even if it’s just for a character or scene, I’ll set up a document in my Ideas folder to capture it before it gets away. From time to time I’ll go back in and add to one or more of the files, depending on what snags my interest at the time. And eventually one of these ideas will tell me it’s ready to be turned into a full blown book.
All of the above is backdrop to explain that one of these idea files contained a snippet of a story set in the late 19th century with a female doctor in the lead role. Of course a story like this requires a lot of research – questions such as what educational options were available for women and where could these be found, how well received were female doctors, what difficulties would they have faced due to their gender and just in general what medical treatments and a medical practice looked like during that time period.
And as often happens, while I was happily ensconced in researching some of this, I stumbled upon an unexpected and totally intriguing story about a fascinating woman. Her name was Mary Walker. She was born in 1832, in upstate New York to parents who encouraged all of their children to pursue formal education. Mary took full advantage of her parents’ ideals and at the age of 25 graduated from Syracuse Medical School with a doctor of medicine degree – she was the only woman in her class. She then went into private practice and eventually married another physician, Dr. Albert Miller. However, in an action that was typical of her fierce independent spirit, she retained her maiden name. Eventually, she and Miller divorced due to his alleged infidelity.
When the Civil War broke out, Mary wanted to serve in the army as a surgeon, but because she was a woman she was unable to do so. Not willing to give up, she worked for free in a temporary hospital in Washington D.C. From there she moved on to Virginia, treating the wounded at numerous field hospitals throughout the area. Finally, in 1863, her medical credentials were acknowledged and she was appointed as a War Department surgeon. A year later she was captured by the Confederate Army and remained their prisoner for about four months.
In 1865, Dr. Walker became the first woman to ever be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, an acknowledgement for her services during the Civil War.
Mary’s unconventional life extended past her service during the war. She was an active and vigorous proponent of women’s rights. She became an author and a lecturer, focusing on issues such as temperance, health care and dress reform. And putting action to her words, she could often be seen garbed in bloomers or even men’s trousers and a top hat. Dr. Walker was a member of the Woman’s Suffrage Bureau in Washington D.C. and testified before committees in the US House of Representatives on woman’s suffrage issues.
In 1917 her name, along with 910 others, was stricken from the list of Medal of Honor recipients. The reason given was that none of these had ever officially served in the military. However, despite orders to return her medal, Mary refused and continued to wear it for the remainder of her life. She passed away in 1919 at the age of 86.
But that’s not the end of Dr. Walker’s story. In 1977, thanks to efforts made by her family who pushed for a Congressional reappraisal of her accomplishments, President Jimmy Carter restored her medal posthumously. She is one of only six people to have this honor restored after it was rescinded. And to date she is still the only female to ever have this medal awarded to her.
So what do you think of this very unorthodox woman? Is there something about her life that particularly intrigued you? Comment on this post for a chance to win an advance copy of my upcoming December release Once Upon A Texas Christmas.
Abigail Fulton is determined to find independence in Turnabout, Texas—and becoming manager of the local hotel could be the solution. But first, she must work with Seth Reynolds to renovate the property by Christmas—and convince him she’s perfect for the job. If only he hadn’t already promised the position to someone else…
Ever since his troubled childhood, Seth yearns to prove himself. And this hotel is his best chance. But what does someone like Abigail know about decor and furnishings? Yet the closer the holiday deadline gets, the more he appreciates her abilities and her kindness. His business ambitions require denying Abigail’s dearest wish, but can they put old dreams aside for a greater gift—love and family?
Back in February, my e-novella Love on the Mend debuted, featuring Dr. Jacob Sadler as my male lead. He was my first doctor character, though Crockett from Stealing the Preacher came close. Crockett was self-taught, however. Jacob actually completed medical school and worked as an army surgeon during the War Between the States. Just last week, I was honored to see the first print version of the story. In Dutch. Yes, still no plans for a print version in the US, but if you travel to the Netherlands, you can find one. Ha!
Although, the translated title look like it reads “Life of the Receipt.” A scintillating tale of a girl trying to return the doctor’s bag she purchased accidentally only to realize she’s stuck with it unless she can find the receipt. Did the dog eat it? Did her next door rival steal it? Or did the matchmaking store clerk purposely send it home with the handsome doctor from the next county hoping to bring the unlikely pair together in an adventure neither saw coming? Find out in Life of the Receipt.
Well, back to doctors. I’ve always been fascinated by these courageous men and women who dedicate their lives to helping others. Some of my favorite western doctors have been:
Dr. Michaela Quinn – One of my favorite shows from the 80s. A strong female lead proving herself in a rugged land. A love story between the reclusive frontiersman and the educated woman. Plenty of medical drama, frontier drama, and family drama. I watched every episode without fail.
And who could forget Dr. Hiram Baker from Little House on the Prairie? He was one of those rare characters that you could always trust to do the right thing. He never lost his temper. Never got flustered. Just treated everyone with the same calm, soothing, competent manner that instantly put people at ease. I wish we still had doctors like him today, making house calls in his black buggy.
This next one is a bit of a stretch. Robert Fuller started off as one of my favorite TV cowboys – Cooper Smith, the scout from the series Wagon Train. Later he took on the role of Dr. Kelly Brackett on one of the first TV medical dramas I remember from my youth in the 70s – Emergency.
The last western doctor is one I just discovered. How did I never know this show existed? I guess it was never one of the westerns that reran its episodes in the 70s when I was around to catch them on Saturday afternoons. Do any of you remember FrontierDoctor from 1958? It starred Rex Allen as small town doctor Bill Baxter in the Arizona Territory in the early 1900s. It was only in syndication for a year, which explains why it never made it to rerun status in the 70s. Sounds like a show that would have been up my alley, though.
How about you? Who are are some of your favorite TV/movie doctors?
Any Dr. House fans? I can’t believe how much I enjoy that show when the lead character is such a horrible human being, but I do. It’s definitely unique and I love the medical mystery aspect of it.
Oh, and for anyone who’s interested, the English version of Love on the Mend is available for all e-readers for around $1.99. You can purchase the Kindle version here.
It’s strange at the things that catch my interest. An old friend of mine is always sending me things she finds in magazines. A few days ago, I received a thick envelope full and among the articles was one about Dr. Benjamin Thomas Crumley.
Dr. Crumley was known far and wide as “the old Indian doctor.” He was born in 1822 and was part Cherokee. In Texas, he was a bit of an oddity because he wore his hair very long. No one knows for sure if he went to medical school but it was common knowledge that he studied with the Cherokee for seven years.
A resident of Buttercup, Texas which is now Cedar Park , he treated his patients with plants, roots and herbal remedies for almost 50 years. Such as horehound for coughs, colds and sore throats. Sassafras to settle the stomach. Chest colds with a mustard plaster. Willow bark for fever. Johnson grass or broomcorn for kidney and urinary problems. Chicory root as a sedative. Asafetida for stomach flu and sour stomach.
In his saddlebags, he carried his trusty “madstone” for treating rabid animal bites. Madstones were often found in the stomach of deer. It was an oval, quartz-like stone about 1 ½ inches in diameter and ¾” thick. Patients swore by the stone’s healing properties.
Dr. Crumley achieved quite a reputation across the state and doctors in larger cities were always asking for his help with difficult cases.
I would love to have seen him. It’s said that he wore a white linen suit and rode a white horse to visit patients.
Once he was abducted by masked horsemen and taken to a remote hideout to treat the outlaw Sam Bass.
The photo shown on the page is of him with his third wife, Lulu. She looks thrilled to death, doesn’t she?
In my work in progress, I have a woman who was born and raised in the mountains. She knows all about natural medicines and what they cured. So no wonder this article caught my eye!
The countdown is on for the May 5th release of TWICE A TEXAS BRIDE. This is book two of the Bachelors of Battle Creek series and is about Rand Sinclair, the middle brother.
I’ll tell more about this book in my next blog on May 5th and will be giving away several copies.
Have you ever used or heard of any of these remedies or a madstone? Visit me at: www.LindaBroday.com
I had to do quite a bit of research for my hero in A Bride in Store who wanted to become a doctor. By the end of the 1800s, the country was trying to regulate who could call themselves a doctor. In some places, you could still literally just call yourself a doctor and start practicing…..not that it was an attractive, lucrative job. Most people consulted a medical book and tried to cure themselves, often holding off on calling a doctor until death was imminent. Being called upon only when things were extremely terrible made it seem as if doctors were useless. For by the time they got there, there was often nothing much that could be done. And then, who wants to pay a doctor for “doing nothing”?
Not that many of them were able to do much, even if the man was a certified doctor with lots of practice and experience and a natural healing talent. As I researched, I felt sorry for the doctors of yesteryear trying to cure ailments that seem so simple nowadays. They just didn’t know the science we know now. Sometimes it was just luck or the body healing itself that afforded most doctors any success. I felt sorry for my hero who wanted to be such a good doctor knowing that the science to help him was so far off in the future.
One of the many misunderstandings back then is what got people sick. Getting rid of ill-humors brought about by “bad air” was a very common practice. Movies make famous the blood-letting treatment used on anything and everything, but that’s probably because the more likely treatment was purging, and well, filming a doctor giving a patient something to quickly empty their innards one way or the other would be an unpleasant viewing experience!
One of the many things I just shook my head over while reading was the misunderstanding about female complaints. Lots of mental disorders were blamed on the uterus. And some possible treatments? Spraying high pressure streams of cold and hot water all over the body, drinking mineral water, flogging with a wet towel……
And of course, purging.
And, I’m assuming readers of Petticoats & Pistols are big romance readers—but did you know that’s dangerous to your 1870s health? Back then, according to Orson S. Fowler, women should give up all romance novel reading and intellectual pursuits to get rid of her monthly discomfort.
So are you brave enough to risk your womanly health and leave a comment to enter the giveaway for my newly released romance novel?
Tell me, if it weren’t for modern medicine, how many of you probably wouldn’t be here to comment today? I think I’d still be alive, but there’s a possibility none of my children would. Thank God for modern medicine!
How has modern medicine helped you? Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for A Bride in Store!
A Bride in Store
Impatient to meet her intended groom and help him grow his general store, mail-order bride Eliza Cantrell sets out on her travels a week early. But her plan goes sadly awry when her train is held up by robbers who steal her dowry and Axel, her groom-to-be, isn’t even in town when she finally arrives.
Axel’s business partner, William Stanton, has no head for business and would much rather be a doctor. When his friend’s mail-order bride arrives in town with no money and no groom in sight, he feels responsible and lets her help around the store–where she quickly proves she’s much more adept at business than he ever will be.
The sparks that fly between Will and Eliza as they work together in close quarters are hard to ignore, but Eliza is meant for Axel and a future with the store, while Will is biding his time until he can afford medical school. However, their troubles are far from over when Axel finally returns, and soon both Will and Eliza must decide what they’re willing to sacrifice to chase their dreams–or if God has a new dream in store for them both.
Back on the frontier, settlers learned to make do with what was at hand, especially if they were ill, since there was little or no medical access. Times were hard and death came often. A person had to have a pretty vast knowledge to survive. Here’s a look at some of their resources. You’re gonna laugh at a few of these.
For Fever — Willow Bark or Sassafras Tea
Gunshots — First removing the bullet, then pulverizing gunpowder placed inside lint scraped from a garment and applied to the area OR some people collected spiderwebs and bound them on the wound
Snakebite — Mix vinegar with gunpowder and apply to the bite OR cauterize the bite with nitrate of silver then give the patient a concoction made from ammonia and whiskey — Native Americans would scrape the wound then apply rattlesnake weed — then another solution was binding thick mud on the wound to draw the poison out
Wounds of any kind — Women used knitting needles to probe a wound, sometimes lancing it with a razor if they thought it needed it, and used embroidery scissors to remove torn skin or even fingers nearly severed in an accident
Preventing contagious diseases and colds — Asafetida (gum resin) or cloves of garlic was hung around the neck
Yellow Fever and Typhoid — Doses of quinine and calomel
Sore Throat — Wrap with red flannel OR a kerosene-soaked rag OR placed a poultice of fried onions around the neck
Stomach Worms — Treated with boiled pumpkin seed tea
Croup — Treated with skunk grease
Bleeding Cuts — Place flour on it to staunch the bleeding
Burns — Apply a p0ultice made of slippery elm and Indian meal OR make a salve of turpentine, sweet oil, and beeswax OR a salve made from chamomile, sweet clover and the inner bark of sweet elder trees mixed with mutton tallow and beeswax OR a mixture made from the white of an egg and lard
As you can see from some of these it’s a thousand wonders anyone survived at all. I’m just glad I live in the modern world where PROVEN medical treatment that works is close by. How about you? Would you be quick these days to put a poultice of fried onions around your neck or drink a big glass of ammoniaand whiskey for snakebite? Good heavens!!!!
Heroic medicine. That sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it? After all, the hero of a novel is a good guy, so heroic medicine must be good. The reality is, it was anything but good and was in fact considered to be one of the contributing factors in George Washington’s death. Yes, trusted physicians’ attempts to heal him may have actually hastened the death of the father of the American nation. Now that I’ve got your attention, let’s take a step back and define “heroic” so we can understand why that might have happened and why the heroine of my latest release, With Autumn’s Return, is no fan of heroic medicine.
My dictionary has a number of definitions for “heroic” including “exhibiting or marked by courage or daring” and “supremely noble and self-sacrificing.” Those could apply to the heroes we all know and love. But there’s another meaning that’s less benign: “of great intensity, extreme, drastic.” That’s where heroic medicine comes into play.
In the eighteenth century and well into the nineteenth, physicians believed that the body had four humors – blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile – and that disease occurred when one or more of them was out of balance. The goal of all medicine was to restore the balance.
How did they do that? If you’re squeamish, you might want to stop reading right now. There were five elements to heroic medicine: bleeding, purging, vomiting, sweating and blistering. Any one of those sounds gruesome to me, but when you combine them with the fact that this was heroic in the sense of extreme and drastic, you realize that the cure might well have been worse than the illness itself.
Bleeding was the most commonly used technique, and although it had lost popularity in the eastern United States by 1860, it was still used on the frontier. As you can guess from the name, the goal was to reduce the volume of blood either by applying leeches (shudder) or by cutting veins and letting large quantities of blood drain from the body.
Next came purging, which consisted of giving the victim … er, the patient … large quantities of calomel or jalap. You can guess what happened next.
If that didn’t work, the physician might try to induce vomiting, again by giving the patient ipecac and tartar emetics. In large quantities. Once again, I’m shuddering.
Sweatingsounds as if it would be the most innocuous of the heroic procedures until you learn that it was induced by giving the patient Dover’s Powder, a concoction of opium, ipecac and lactose which served as a diaphoretic. (I couldn’t resist including that word, since it was a new one for me. As you may have guessed from the context, a diaphoretic is a substance that induces sweating.) I’m still shaking my head over the fact that opium was used so often, although considering the pain that must have been involved in these procedures, it was probably the kindest thing a doctor could offer his patient.
Lastly comes blistering. Hot plasters were placed on the patient’s body with the goal of producing blisters that could be lanced and drained. And, of course, since this was heroic medicine, it was done on a large scale.
This was the world of medicine well into the nineteenth century. By the time my fictional heroine attended medical school, new techniques were being introduced, but there were still old-timers who believed in the value of heroic medicine, and one of them was practicing in Cheyenne when Elizabeth opened her office. Can you guess what happened when they met?
WITH AUTUMN’S RETURN
She’s planning on instant success. What she didn’t plan on was love. When Elizabeth Harding arrives in Cheyenne to open a medical practice, she is confident that the future is as bright as the warm Wyoming sun. Certain she’ll have a line of patients eager for her services, she soon discovers the town may not welcome a new physician—especially a female one. Even Jason Nordling, the handsome young attorney next door, seems to disapprove of her chosen profession.
When a web of deceit among Cheyenne’s wealthiest residents threatens to catch Elizabeth and Jason in its snare, they must risk working together to save one of Elizabeth’s patients, even if it means falling in love.
From the time that she was seven, Amanda Cabot dreamed of becoming a published author, but it was only when she set herself the goal of selling a book by her thirtieth birthday that the dream came true. A former director of Information Technology, Amanda has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages. She’s delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian historical romances. Her Texas Dreams trilogy received critical acclaim; Christmas Roses was a CBA bestseller; and a number of her books have been finalists for national awards, including ACFW’s Carol award.
I admire ladies who have done home births. I deeply admire them—but I probably wouldn’t want to be one of them! When it came time to deliver my three children, I wanted the hospital, the nurses, and yes, the doctor there to help me!
And do you know, I never really spared much thought for what my doctor went through to get her education. I mean, I looked at her degree on the wall and thought that’s nice, but I didn’t really THINK about it.
It wasn’t until I began researching THE RETURN OF THE COWBOY DOCTOR, that I realized exactly how much women in the United States have had to work to become accepted as medical doctors.
As of 2012, 34% of all physicians and surgeons were women, according to one study1. Compare that to the Old West, where by the year 1900 there were approximately 7,000 women physicians in the entire U.S.2 Only seven thousand among a population of 76 million (according to the 1900 census).
And they had to scrap and fight to win the right to practice medicine. Several of the accounts I read about shared that men would boycott women doctors, refusing treatment to their own detriment. Many men refused to allow their loved ones, wives or daughters, to seek treatment from a female doctor. Prejudice was rampant and women physicians had to work twice as hard as their male counterparts to built their practices.
Also when researching for this book, I discovered the grisly truths of mortality rates for women and childbirth (some sources claimed close to 50% of women died because of unclean conditions or after-birth infections). Many women didn’t have a doctor close enough to attend, and relied on neighbors or their husbands to get them through.
Let me tell you that my husband would be traumatized by going it alone! I am so thankful that the medical profession has come such a long way, and grateful to all the women of the past who fought for their dreams.
READER QUESTION: What is one thing you’ve had to scrap or fight for in your life or career?
LACY WILL GIVE AWAY TWO COPIES OF THE RETURN OF THE COWBOY DOCTOR TO TWO FOLKS WHO LEAVE ACOMMENT.
About LACY:Lacy Williams grew up on a farm, which is where her love of cowboys was born. In reality, she’s married to a right-brained banker (happily with three kiddos). She gets to express her love of western men by writing historical romance. Her books have finaled in the RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Awards (2012 & 2013), the Golden Quill and the Booksellers Best Award.
Two years shy of his medical degree, cowboy Maxwell White is out of money. So, he’s back in Bear Creek, Wy
oming, working part-time for the local physician. Though he is immediately drawn to the doctor’s lovely, whip-smart daughter, she seems to be irritated by Maxwell’s very existence.
Hattie Powell can’t quash her feelings for the town’s new would-be doctor. But that’s exactly why she must keep him at a distance. Hattie is closer than ever to fulfilling her lifelong wish of becoming a doctor. Now, the only thing standing in her way is the man of her dreams.
Book 2 in the Wyoming Legacy series: United by family, destined for love
Book 3, THE WRANGLER’S INCONVENIENT WIFE is out August 1, 2014!
The second book, AN OUTLAW IN WONDERLAND, in my western historical romance series “Once Upon a Time in the West” was released on June 4th. This series is set in the post-Civil War period. However the incidents that set the heroes and heroines on their path occurred during the war. This second book begins at Gettysburg in 1864 and moves to Chimborazo Hospital and Castle Thunder Prison in Richmond.
As the hero of OUTLAW is a physician, and the heroine a matron at the hospital (when they aren’t spying for opposite sides) I did a lot of research about Civil War era medicine and became fascinated by it. They knew a lot more than we thought they did back then, or at least a lot more than I thought they did.
The casualties of the Civil War were the greatest in our history. Most estimates put the death toll at 620,000, though some go as high as 700,000. For the Union, over twice as many died of disease as died in battle. The names of the diseases were as colorful as their symptoms–the King’s evil, a strangery, erysipelas, pyemia, paroxysms.
Most physicians were aware of the connection between filth and infection, however they had no idea how to sterilize equipment. Because of the conditions–an overabundance of wounded, tents and barns used as field hospitals, a lack of any water, let alone clean water– doctors often went days without washing their hands, thus transferring bacteria from one man to another. A small cut on a hand could result in a “surgical fever” for the doctor himself. And penicillin wouldn’t be discovered for another seventy odd years.
In AN OUTLAW IN WONDERLAND, Ethan Walsh believes that putrefaction is a result of invisible particles in the air. If they entered an open wound, infection set in. The particles could travel on the instruments used, the sutures, even the surgeon’s, the nurse’s, or the patient’s hands. Therefore, Ethan washes everything that touches his patients, including the doctor, with a mixture of alcohol and water. Fewer of his patients die than any of the other physicians’. Most think him insane. Annabeth Phelan sees him as both beautiful and brilliant.
While the concept of “biting the bullet” has become legend, in truth most operations were performed after the administration of ether or chloroform. Reports of screaming from the operating tents were most likely the screams of men who’d just learned they would lose a limb rather than their screams as they were losing it.
Chloroform and ether was administered by dripping the liquid onto cloth then holding the cloth over the patient’s nose. When he went limp, the operation commenced. Not the best technique, but better than the alternative. Many soldiers were only half asleep when the operation began. Stonewall Jackson was said to have remembered the sound of the saw cutting off his arm. In the Civil War, speed was often a surgeon’s best technique.
If a soldier survived surgery and escaped fever, pain might be alleviated by laudanum or morphine, which was made from the opium poppy. Often the drug was rubbed directly onto the wound in powder form. The liquid form could also be injected. As laudanum, the drug could be added to water and made more palatable with sugar. The drug in either form was highly addictive. Such addiction, its symptoms and cure, also plays an important part in OUTLAW.
In this trilogy, brain injuries play a significant role. During the Civil War, as now, the brain is a mystery. Injuries to it–be they from a Minié ball, or a knock on the noggin–are treated with a combination of guesswork and hope.
I became fascinated with Civil War era medicine, and enjoyed filtering it through the “Once Upon a Time in the West” series.
Do you enjoy learning about other time periods? What’s your favorite time period? What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about it?
I’ll be giving away a copy of the first book in the “Once Upon a Time in the West” series, the RITA nominated, BEAUTY AND THE BOUNTY HUNTER to three of today’s commenters, chosen at random.