Forty-nine-year-old Sarah Field is buried at Bethel Burying Ground with four of her babies.
Ms. Field took in wash and ironing, while her spouse Abraham Field worked as a waiter. They lived on Christian Street between 8th and 9th Street in the Moyamensing District of the county. Both attended church services and belonged to a beneficial society, per the 1847 African American Census.
Ms. Field was forty-years-old when she delivered a stillborn son on April 11th in 1842. The child was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. There were 385 stillborn births in 1842 Philadelphia, according to the Board of Health.
The Fields lost a one-year-old daughter on August 14th in 1844. She was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The child died of “Summer Complaint,” also known as Cholera Infantum which was severe diarrhea in young children that occurred during the warm and hot months of the year. The bacterial disease was transmitted through human feces in water, milk or unwashed hands. Death frequently occurred in three to five days. According to the Philadelphia Board of Health records, 262 children succumbed to the disease in 1844.
Seven-month-old Edward Field died on March 1st in 1851 of a ruptured blood vessel and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground with his brother and sister.
On March 12th in 1851, at forty-nine-years of age, Sarah Field died of “Bed Fever.” She had given birth to a son the day before who died the same day as his mother. Both were buried at Bethel Burying Ground with the other Field children. “Bed Fever,” also known as Puerperal Fever, was a bacterial infection contracted by a woman who has given birth. Consequently, “blood poisoning” or septicemia sets in and takes the life of the woman. Board of Health records show that forty-one Philadelphia women died of Puerperal Fever in 1851. The number seems low.
The high rate of stillbirths in this era is attributed to the lack of proper maternal nutrition and the possible infection of the fetus with Tetanus or lockjaw. This is transmitted by the mother through an infected umbilical cord. (A Biohistory of 19th-Century Afro-American by Lesley M. Rankin-Hill, p. 77.)
The human remains of Ms. Sarah Field and her four children continue to be interred at Bethel Burying Ground under the Weccacoe Playground. (Photo by WHYY)