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Dear Reader #142

Dear Reader,

Operation Zigzag, book one in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, is #1 on the Amazon charts again this weekend. Many thanks to all my readers for making this possible.

Married life for my 4 x great grandparents John Glissan, a surgeon/dentist/chemist, and Sarah Foreman, a nurse/dentist/chemist got off to a dramatic start when John featured as a witness in an assault case in which the victim was not expected to recover. This report appeared in the Morning Post on 25 July 1835.

During the second half of the 1830s John and Sarah traded as chemists/druggists from 147 Blackfriars Road, London, a desirable residence. However, the rent was high and with children on the way they had to consider their future. A move, slightly down market, seemed inevitable.

John Glissan began his apothecary career in Dublin near the docks. He knew that environment well, so in the 1840s he relocated his wife and three daughters from Blackfriars Road in London to 28 Church Road in St George in the East. There he operated as a surgeon/dentist.

John died on 16 March 1854. Alone, Sarah faced an uncertain future. However, twenty years earlier she had risen to the challenge when she moved from her family home in Tetford, Lincolnshire to London. Once again, she met the challenge: she established herself as a dentist.

A brief history of dentistry. In 1855 Emeline Roberts Jones became the first woman to practice dentistry in the United States. She married the dentist Daniel Jones when she was a teenager, and became his assistant in 1855. Lilian Lindsay, 1895, is regarded as the first female dentist in Britain, yet my 4 x great grandmother Sarah Foreman was practicing dentistry with her husband, John Glissan, from 1834 and in her own right from 1854. A remarkable achievement by Sarah.

In the 1860s, when she was sixty, my 4 x great grandmother Sarah Foreman returned to nursing. She became a monthly nurse, a woman who looked after a mother and her baby during the postpartum or postnatal period. Historically, women were expected to rest in bed for an extended period of time after giving birth. Care was provided either by her female relatives (mother or mother-in-law) or, if you could afford it, by a monthly nurse. 

The term “monthly nurse” was most commonly used in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, because such a nurse usually remained with the mother and child for four weeks. The term “monthly” is something of a misnomer because the length of time a nurse remained with a family depended on the family’s financial circumstances and needs.

“The Monthly Nurse”. Wellcome Trust.

Born in a small village in Lincolnshire, Sarah moved to London where she became a nurse, a chemist and a dentist. She gave birth to three daughters and guided them through the health hazards of the Victorian era. She died on 4 June 1891 in Raine Street Infirmary aged 87 of senectus, old age, after a life well lived.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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