Eighty-six-year-old Joanna Brickley died this date, September 29th, in 1853 of “Bilious Fever” which is usually associated with liver disease. A widow, she was born in Delaware and had spent her last twenty-nine years in Philadelphia. She was employed as a nurse during her working years. She lived at #6 Gaskill in a destitute neighborhood. Gaskill is now Naudain Street.
Black women in 19th century Philadelphia were employed as a wet-nurse, children’s nurse, sick room nurse, and hospital nurse in segregated maternity and general wards. However, the 1847 Philadelphia African American Census shows that only twenty-one Black women and men reported their occupation as “nurse.”
Ms. Brickley arrived in Philadelphia from Delaware, her home state, in 1824 at the age of fifty-seven. At that period of time in Delaware’s history, there was an aggressive attempt by state and local governments to severely restrict the rights of free Black men and women while they struggled to establish their autonomy. Blacks were denied incorporation of their beneficial societies and fraternal organizations. Black children were beginning to be denied a state-funded education. Richard Allen’s itinerant ministers of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia had fanned out through Delaware as early as 1822, preaching in private homes that attracted large enthusiastic groups of Black citizens. This AME gospel of liberation also did not go unnoticed by the enslaved population which increased the slaveholders’ fear of a violent revolt. This period of increased white oppression was the catalyst for a dramatic increase in the migration of Black Delawareans to Philadelphia, a popular exodus destination for free and enslaved fugitives.*
Joanna Brickley joined her ancestors on a clear September day in 1853.
*William H. Williams, Slavery and Freedom in Delaware, 1639-1865.