Sunday, January 18, 2015

Margaret Hammond - Midwife and Artist

When the Sutton Law of 1852 went into effect in Kentucky, physicians and midwives were required to submit a written account of the births they had attended. At the time, there were four known midwives in Crittenden County - Elizabeth Brasher, Annie Heath, Maria Hoggard and Margaret Hammond. No formal education was required of midwives; they learned by doing.

Because of the Sutton Law, we have a number of original birth records from the mid-1850s. They contain the following information: Date of birth; sex; where born; names of parents, including mother's maiden name; date certificate was signed and the signature of the midwife.

One of these midwives is of particular interest, not because of her skills as a midwife, but because of her personality that is displayed on some of the birth records she signed. Most women of the mid-1800s left few records to indicate their personality, but Margaret Hammond was different. 

Margaret Lamb married Martin Hammond 5 January 1814 in Caldwell County, Kentucky.[1] Her father, John Lamb, gave consent for the license to be issued.  Martin Hammond died in 1855, leaving Margaret a widow. Martin's estate wasn't settled until 1857, which was the last year we have a record of Margaret being a midwife.  We don't know how long she worked as a midwife, but the first record we have dates from 1852. All births she attended were  in the Crooked Creek area of Crittenden County.

Margaret distinguished herself for being a midwife, but she is also known for the little figures she drew on some of the birth records. The figures may be males or they could be females. Most are smoking a pipe and some are wearing a hat. The figures are rough and primitive, but they have a certain charm. Why did she decorate some of the birth records with these figures? Was she just drawing what she saw?  Did she think of herself as an artist? Was she poking fun at someone?  One drawing not pictured here is offensive because of the words she used in describing the birth of an African American child.  What was the purpose of decorating these birth records? What do you think?

Crittenden County Birth Records
Decorated with  Margaret Hammond's drawings

[1] Brenda Joyce Jerome. Caldwell County, Kentucky Marriages 1809-1832 (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery, 1996) 24.

Published 18 January 2015, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

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