Monday, April 18, 2011

Margaret Wistar Haines

Margaret Haines was a Quaker famed for her tireless work with the poor. However since the beginning of the epidemic the 64 year old woman confined herself to her house, entertained in the main by Rebecca Jones, a preeminent Quaker "preacher," who preached that one could not escape the rod. When Margaret had "a severe chill," followed by a "smart fever," she sent her daughter away, "for it's a serious thing to visit the sick at his awful time," and asked for an African American nurse.

The nurse her daughter hired seemed "little used to good nursing," but she proved to be "very attentive," and "pleased" the patient. Margaret's son came into the city, much to the distress of his wife. Margaret kept him from her room arguing that coming from the country air he was too vulnerable. She looked at him from a window. He stayed in the house, anxiously taking preventatives like Fothergill's pills which "opened" his body "cleverly." When he went to the door to talk to his mother he had "garlick or segar constantly" in his mouth. He worried that the letters he sent to his wife in the country might carry infection so he smoked them and wrote warnings on the envelop, e.g. "don't let the bearer come into the house," or "turn this horse into the pasture and then nobody go near him." He was discomforted by the warm temperature, in the low 80s that weekend, and found "they have more misketoos in the house than I remember and wonder how they can sleep at all."

Margaret was bled and blistered by Dr. Parke. She let Daniel Offley pass into the sickroom because he had visited many of the sick. Offley did more than comfort Margaret. When a prominent Quaker like Haines died, a notice describing her life and her demeanor at death was included in the Society's records. Offley waited through her deliriums and heard her repeat twice, "O Lord, thy will and not mine be done, be with me to the end if it be thy holy will, blessed be thy name, forever and ever." Her daughter, who did sneak into her room, got chills and then fever, and took to her own bed feeling as if she had been blessed. The nurse could provide what little else her dying mother needed, so she, the daughter, could die happily, for her "life had been spared while I was capable to render any assistance or relief to my dearest and valued parent."

She went to her room with "a black lad who was to stay that night with me." After "dreadful conflict and bodily suffering," Margaret died quietly at 5 a.m. Her daughter's fever abated. The distraught son did not get infected and was encouraged by friends to believe that he had done all a dutiful son could.

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