Twenty-eight-year-old Hannah Douglass died this date, July 9th, in 1842 of Tuberculosis and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. There is little additional information on Ms. Douglass besides what is on her death certificate. She was a married woman and a native of Philadelphia who labored as a washwoman.
Hannah Douglass worked at a job that taxed her body and spirit. Water had to be drawn and carried from the nearest hydrant, firewood had to be obtained, fires had to be started and heavy bundles of clothes had to be picked up and returned to her customers after the clothes and sheets were hung up, dried and folded. All in the wilting heat and freezing cold, while taking care of children, shopping for and preparing the family’s meals, and, on occassion, while pregnant. It was an undertaking for only the strong and strong-willed. And, for all this, she might earn between $0.50 and $1.00 a week!
Hannah Douglass lived with her family in a room at #3 Little Pine Street. The 1847 Philadelphia African American Census shows that they would have paid $3 – $4 a month. In modern currency that would be $93.81 – $125.08. After Ms. Douglass’s death, I am unable to find any information on Mr. Douglass or children if they had any. Three weeks after she died, a massive city-wide anti-Black riot occurred, where African Americans were killed, homes and churches destroyed. Many Black families fled the city and never returned. Mr. Douglass may have been in that group.
According to the Philadelphia Board of Heath record, Ms. Douglass was one of the 1,991 Philadelphians to succumb to the Tuberculosis bacteria during the period of 1841 and 1842. There would be no vaccine for the disease until the early 1900s. The above advertisement from the 1800s shows the desperate extent to which victims would go for a cure. “Sea-Weed Tonic” was not the answer.
Hannah Douglass died on a rainy and windy day in July and was buried by her family, with dignity, at Bethel Burying Ground.
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