Thirty-year-old Ann Thompson died this date, October 5th, in 1840 of Puerperal Peritonitis and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. She was another victim of physicians and midwives not sterilizing their instruments and not washing their hands and, subsequently, infecting the genital area and uterus of a woman after she gives birth. It appears from Board of Health records that Ms. Thompson’s child lived.
Puerperal Peritonitis or “bed fever” was a quick, agonizing and devastating disease. It affected women within the first three days of giving birth and death occured only days later from sepsis or “blood poisoning.”
The yellow arrow indicates the approximate location of Ms. Thompson’s home on Prosperous Alley between 11th and 12th Streets and Locust and Spruce Streets. Prosperous Alley was in the middle of a cluster of streets, alleys, and dead end courts that mainly housed Black families. The majority of men worked as waiters and shoemakers, while the women were employed as laundresses and dressmakers. There were a significant number of widows and single women in the alley, according to city directories. The area was five blocks west of Bethel A.M.E. Church.
There is enough evidence from the 1838 Register of Trades of Colored People to suggest that Ms. Thompson’s spouse was Thomas Thompson. His occupation was listed as “Shoemaker.” The 1840 U.S. Census shows Ann and Thomas were already the parents of three girls, all under the age of ten. There were two other older adults listed at the same address who very well may have been Ann’s or Thomas’ parents.
The 1840 Philadelphia that Ms. Thompson left with her death was the most racist city in the north. African American men recently had lost the right to vote in Pennsylvania and street assaults on Black men and women were increasing. Just before Ms. Thompson’s death, the celebrated abolitionist Lucretia Mott, a white woman, was warned by the mayor of Philadelphia that she had been seen walking with Black people on the city’s streets and that her activity was inciting a “certain element” and should stop. She didn’t stop but in the end that “certain element” really didn’t need any incentive to continue their genocidal assault on the Black race.
Ms. Thompson died on a warm day in early October and was buried by her family at Bethel Burying Ground. I wasn’t able to find any further records on Mr. Thompson or the children.