ague & fever

like jsut heartbroken pioneer dennis burying mandy after she dies of fever n’ ague after eating some bad watermelon and his neighbour poorly educated dirt farmer mac comes by to help look after the child and tend to the homestead and one night a few weeks later dennis is out sitting by the campfire looking up at the stars and mac comes out with a mug of apple cider and he passes it to dennis and their fingers brush and mac’s hand is calloused from churning butter all day and they kiss and then they go inside the little cabin and lie down on the trundle bed on a mattress stuffed with prairie grass and buffalo hair and they invent spooning. it’s 3 am folsk

Ozark Encyclopedia – A –Angelica

American Angelica, Purplestem Angelica - Angelica atropurpurea

Parts used: root

Traditional uses: Tonic of roots taken for obstructed menses, colds, fever, ague, and for flatulent colics. Roots used as gargle for sore throat.

“AMERICAN ANGELICA or Masterwort (A. atropurpurea, Linn.), also used in herbal medicine in North America, grows throughout the eastern United States. The root has a strong odour and a warm aromatic taste. The juice of the fresh root is acrid and said to be poisonous, but the acridity is dissipated by drying.” ~Grieve MH

Chewing angelica root for stomach troubles - “Many hillfolk chew angelica root, which is another famous stomach remedy, supposed to cure everything from gastric ulcers to appendicitis…” ~Randolph OMF 95

“Many hillfolks chew the root of the angelica for it is a well known remedy for stomach trouble.” ~Rayburn OFE A-4 “Angelica”


Grieve, Margaret A Modern Herbal (MH)

Randolph, Vance Ozark Magic and Folklore (OMF)

Rayburn, Otto Ernest Ozark Folk Encyclopedia (OFE)

Milady’s options

Only tangentially related to Milady, really, and triggered by something I saw in a post about how Milady’s only options as a 17th century woman would be menial jobs, prostitution or marriage. (But then, the show has been written by people who assume that “slave trader” was a reasonable option for a woman from Paris and that “assassin” was a job description on the payroll of the queen’s household, so.)

Even if Milady was a 17th century woman and not a fictional character written by 21st century writers in a very much non-17th century setting, she would have had plenty of choices what to do with her life. If the show had not been written by idiots, and if the writers had not been perpetuating the stereotype that “historical accuracy” means that women never had normal jobs and never contributed to societal and economic developments before the Suffragette movement rolled along.

Okay, so let’s say “menial jobs” are beneath Milady, such as seamstress, embroider, lace-maker, weaver (NB, not all of France is Paris; Tours was the centre of the silk industry, go to Tours, you stupid woman, and get a job there), milliner, shopkeeper, landlady of an inn/hotel, baker/confectioner, a merchantess running her own business (marry a merchant, off him after the wedding, you great big assassin, and inherit his business), etc. 

Let’s assume that Milady is intelligent (as most people appear to see her), ambitious, capable, and a quick learner. She was a count’s wife and the king’s mistress, so she must have some useful social and marketable skills. If there was a job she wanted, what should have stopped her?

Oh, right. Idiotic writing. And the idiotic belief that Women In The Past didn’t have jobs.

Copiously quoted from the “Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance”:

Despite the legacy of a misogyny deeply embedded in classical and medieval literature, fifteenth-century humanism provided a gateway for women into the literary and cultural mainstream. The new humanist curriculum introduced a roster of studies that appealed to both women and men. The new humanist curriculum produced women who published works in every literary genre, served unofficially as their husbands’ foreign ministers, acted as regents and coregents of their states, directed their children’s educations, practiced medicine, wrote treatises on every branch of knowledge, and became abbesses and nuns who taught in convent schools.

[…] In the cities and the courts, a few women worked as painters, miniaturists, composers, musicians, singers, and printers. Many such women worked in the ateliers and shops of their fathers. Other women plied their trades as artists and composers under the auspices of a convent.

What is this? Female professions that go beyond “wife”, “sex worker” or “assassin”? Who would’ve thought it!

Misogyny and sexism in the professional sphere does not mean that women didn’t have jobs. It means that their work was not as highly valued and highly paid as men’s, and that their contributions often weren’t recorded.

If menial jobs are beneath her, have some more glamorous ones:

Alchemist - Because there was no formal training in alchemy in universities, guilds, or colleges, women could access alchemical knowledge in the same way that most men did: by cobbling together an alchemical education from a few vernacular texts, by learning techniques from other practitioners, or perhaps by buying a recipe from another peddler of alchemical secrets. Women could also draw on their experience with traditional activities that utilized similar techniques, such as distilling water and cooking. Marie Meurdrac’s “Accessible and Easy Chemistry for Women” was published in 1666.

Nun (in a convent of her choice) – Convents provided protection for women, as well as an education, albeit limited, and they offered nuns a certain autonomy of action not possible for most women in the secular world. Their sphere of action was not limited to the private world of their community, since convent women lived off income from properties they owned, money they lent, and the sale of produce and handicrafts. Convent education and freedom from family responsibilities offered nuns the opportunity to study and to write. In many convents a recorder was appointed to keep account books or to document the history of their foundation and the events of their lives. […] Special convents were founded for reformed prostitutes and for poor girls in danger of turning to such a life. Beginning in the early sixteenth century new orders were founded that were dedicated to educating young women outside convent walls;

Writer – Women had an honored place in literary society by the end of the sixteenth century. A lineage of writers and translators, associated with virtuous household academies and represented as paragons of “learned virtue,” had proved to the intellectual elite that education made women not domestic liabilities but instead positive contributors to family honor and literary culture.

Salonnière (because women who ran salons were not habitually burnt at the stake OMG and Milady actually proved in-universe that she could move around in a salon environment) - In literary contexts, the term “salon” is most often associated with the women of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries in France, such as Catherine de Vivonne (1588–1665), the marquise de Rambouillet, renowned for her chambre bleue, her salon for the intellectuals and courtiers who frequented the Hôtel de Rambouillet, and Madeleine de Scudéry (1607–1701), famous for her samedis, or the Saturday meetings of her salon circle, and also author or the longest novel ever published (Artamène ou le Grand Cyrus).

Makeup, cosmetics, perfume maker - Although the craft of cosmetic enhancement was known to women from the ancient times, it is in the Renaissance that its use became increasingly widespread. Perfumes were an expensive and highly sought-after commodity; create a good perfume recipe and off you go.

Medical professional - Women made important contributions to medical practice and theory during the Renaissance in Europe. Their work encompassed a broad range of areas of medical expertise, from nutrition and hygiene to gynecology and obstetrics. Moreover, outside of the health care fields, which were seen as “women’s domain,” they also participated in spheres where both men and women worked as medical providers, such as in surgery and optometry.

In the early seventeenth century, the celebrated surgeon and midwife Maria Colinetia, the wife of a surgeon, traveled throughout Germany demonstrating procedures and is credited with the technique of removing iron splinters from the eye with a magnet. Mary Trye, who trained under her father, published in 1675 one of the first medical manuals for women, her “Medicatrix, or the Woman-Physician”.

In Catholic France, hospital governance transferred from ecclesiastical authorities to lay municipal administrators, but the everyday health care work of women continued to underpin medical services. In some towns, the nuns remained the nursing personnel, but in other cities they were replaced by laywomen. In France, the first licensing regulations were established for Parisian midwives in 1560. [Contraception methods included] medical techniques such as inserting vaginal pessaries of rue and ground lily root combined with castoreum, administering douches designed to cool the womb, and using barrier methods.

Pharmacist - A large number of laywomen were experts in the concoction of medical remedies. Like learned physicians, women used their medications to treat a wide variety of illnesses, including dysentery, ague, fevers, headaches, toothaches, and epilepsy.

Printer - For centuries, scholars have placed women at the margins of the early modern book industry, this in sharp contrast to their contributions as illuminators and scribes in late medieval manuscript production. Knowledge of women’s roles in the early book industry is hampered by scattered and incomplete sources. Chief among these are the books themselves. Even when she published a book, only rarely would a woman sign her name in the colophon.

A printer’s business - even that of a modest typographer - was not usually limited to one shop but rather included multiple shops (for the storage of supplies or purposes of accounting) attached to his place of residence. It was a printing house where business and family often overlapped. Thus, though she might be barred from the printing shop itself, the wife or daughter of a printer could learn other facets of his business, such as bookkeeping, binding books, and preparing paper for printing. Marry a printer, you great accomplished seductress, off him after the wedding, and inherit his business, sorted!

Theatre actress, manager, playwright - European women of the fifteenth through early seventeenth centuries participated in both public and private theatrical activities not only as audience members, but also as playwrights, translators, actresses, patrons, shareholders, employees of theaters, and leaders of acting troupes.

Records of professional French actresses began to appear at the end of the sixteenth century in conjunction with the famous actor Valleran le Conte and his acting troupe. By the latter part of the seventeenth century, Frenchwomen performed regularly both at court and in the public theaters. They also served as theater professionals of another kind: as costumers, ushers, and box office managers. More important, talented actresses earned a share or quarter share in companies and therefore gained a voice and a percentage of the profit.

Translator (Milady presumably speaks English) - The importance of translation in the Renaissance cannot be overestimated. It brought the newly discovered classical texts to a wider audience; it helped circulate the currents of religious debate throughout the Reformation and Counter-Reformation; and it made vernacular works available to a new readership.

Of the approximately one hundred early modern French women writers whose works we know, over 10 percent published translations of ancient or modern vernacular texts, either in manuscript or printed editions. […] Although they were excluded from the colleges, universities, and academies, where translation was a standard part of the curriculum, the works of these women translators reflect the various approaches to translation current in Renaissance France. Such women writers as Anne de Graville, Marie de Cotteblanche, Claudine Scève, Anne de Marquets, Marguerite de Cambis, and Marie de Romieu translated popular Italian and English works into French.


Post brought to you by my ongoing irritation with showrunners and audiences alike who persistently claim that the only jobs available to Women In The Past were “wife”, “domestic servant” or “fallen woman”. Not every “Past” is set in the Jane Austen pastoral English province or Dickensian Victorian London.

Post dedicated to Marie de Gournay (1565–1645), professional writer in Paris, moral philosopher, polemicist for the equality of women, novelist, philologist, and husbandless all her life.

You don’t feel yourself falling in love, like it’s a journey, a process; on the contrary, it hits you like a sudden ague, a fever, the realisation that your life will never be the same again.
—  Chloe Thurlow, “Katie in Love”
Ozark Encyclopedia – C – Chestnut

Chestnut - Castanea dentata, C. pumila

Parts used: bark, leaf, nut

Traditional uses: Compound decoction of leaves used as cough syrup. Leaves from young sprouts dipped in hot water and put on sores. Cold, compound infusion of bark used to stop bleeding after childbirth. Infusion of year old leaves taken for heart trouble.

“In some places Chestnut leaves are used as a popular remedy in fever and ague, for their tonic and astringent properties. Their reputation rests, however, upon their efficacy in paroxysmal and convulsive coughs, such as whooping-cough, and in other irritable and excitable conditions of the respiratory organs. The infusion of 1 OZ. of the dried leaves in a pint of boiling water is administered in tablespoonful to wineglassful doses, three or four times daily.” ~Grieve MH

Leaves used for coughs – “Chestnut leaves syrup is good for cough when seeped as tea.” ~Parler FBA II 1951

Bark tea for hives – “Chinquepin bark tea sweetened with honey will cure hives.” ~Parler FBA II 2466

Bad luck to burn – “If you burn chinquapin wood, it will cause bad luck or a death in the family.” ~Parler FBA XIV 11262


Grieve, Margaret A Modern Herbal (MH)

Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany (NAE)

Parler, Mary Celestia Folk Beliefs from Arkansas (FBA)

Ozark Encyclopedia – B – Boneset

Boneset - Eupatorium perfoliatum

Parts used: leaf, flower

Traditional uses: Used as a purgative. Infusion taken for colds. Used as a tonic, sudorific, stimulant, emetic and antiseptic. Infusion taken for “ague,” colds and flu. Used as a stimulant. Infusion taken for sore throat. Decoction of plant used as a gentle emetic. Plant used as a fever medicine.

“Stimulant, febrifuge and laxative. It acts slowly and persistently, and its greatest power is manifested upon the stomach, liver, bowels and uterus. It is regarded as a mild tonic in moderate doses, and is also diaphoretic, more especially when taken as a warm infusion, in which form it is used in attacks of muscular rheumatism and general cold. In large doses it is emetic and purgative. Many of the earlier works allude to this species as a diuretic, and therefore of use in dropsy, but this is an error, this property being possessed by Eupatorium purpureum, the purple-flowered Boneset, or Gravel Root. It has been much esteemed as a popular febrifuge, especially in intermittent fever, and has been employed, though less successfully, in typhoid and yellow fevers. It is largely used by the negroes of the Southern United States as a remedy in all cases of fever, as well as for its tonic effects. As a mild tonic it is useful in dyspepsia and general debility, and particularly serviceable in the indigestion of old people. The infusion of 1 OZ of the dried herb to 1 pint of boiling water may be taken in wineglassful doses, hot or cold: for colds and to produce perspiration, it is given hot; as a tonic, cold. As a remedy in catarrh, more especially in influenza, it has been extensively used and with the best effects, given in doses of a wineglassful, warm every half hour, the patient remaining in bed the whole time; after four or five doses, profuse perspiration is caused and relief is obtained. It is stated that the popular name Boneset is derived from the great value of this remedy in the treatment of a species of influenza which had much prevailed in the United States, and which from the pain attending it was commonly called Break-Bone Fever. This species of Eupatorium has also been employed in cutaneous diseases, and in the expulsion of tapeworm.” ~Grieve MH

*** Cautions: Contains trace amounts of the toxin pyrrolizidine. Caution should be taken when using internally. Large doses emetic. ***

Tea for fevers and chills - “Boneset tea is a favorite remedy for chills, fever, and ague.” ~Randolph OMF 107

Root tea for colds – “My mother says as a child she had malaria with chills every other day and fever. An old aunt of her mothers came to visit and told her brothers to go into the woods and get the root of a certain plant called ‘bone set’. She took the roots, washed them, and boiled them, and made a tea. This my mother had to drink, and it cured her, and she has never had a chill to this day.” ~Parler FBA II 1767

Applied to body for malaria – “A cure for malaria is to take the oil from a plant called a bone set (Eupatorium) and apply to the person with malaria.” ~Parler FBA III 2676


Grieve, Margaret A Modern Herbal (MH)

Moerman, Daniel E. Native American Ethnobotany (NAE)

Parler, Mary Celestia Folk Beliefs from Arkansas (FBA)

Randolph, Vance Ozark Magic and Folklore (OMF)

225: Breath and Blowing

Using the breath to cure or to carry a curing power to the patient is an interesting aspect of Ozark folk medicine that likely has European origins although the same idea can be seen across many cultures around the world. The fire in a burn can be blown out by an experienced burn doctor, or thrush, sometimes called “thrash” in Ozark speak, can be cured by having a preacher or someone who has never seen their father blow into the mouth of the child. Prayers or blessings can be blown over a patient in need of healing, or the sickness itself can be blown away like dust is blown by the wind.

Here are some other ways blowing or the breath have figured into Ozark folk healing. All these anecdotes are from Vance Randolph’s “Ozark Magic and Folklore”:

“When an Ozark child has colic, the mother squeezes a little of her own milk into a teacup. Then she takes a reed pipestem and blows clouds of tobacco smoke into the cup, so that it bubbles up through the milk. When the baby drinks this nicotinized milk it becomes quiet at once and soon falls asleep. Other people treat a ‘colicky’ infant simply by blowing tobacco smoke up under its clothes; I have seen this done several times, and it really did seem to relieve the pain or at least to distract the child’s attention for the moment.”

“Some yarb doctors treat earache simply by blowing tobacco smoke into the ear; if this doesn’t give relief, they blow the smoke into a cup of warm water with a reed or pipestem and put a few drops of this smoke water into the ear at intervals.”

“A gentleman near Crane, Missouri, has enjoyed a great success in relieving the pain from superficial burns. He just blows gently upon the burned place, touches it with his finger tips, and whispers a little prayer.”

“Mrs. May Kennedy McCord, of Springfield, Missouri, knows how to ‘draw out fire’ from a burn. She learned it from Harry N. Force, an old-time druggist who spent many years in Cotter, Arkansas. You just mutter: ‘Two little angels come from Heaven, one brought fire and the other brought frost, go out fire and come in frost.’ As you say the last word you blow gently on the burn. This ‘sayin’ is supposed must be learned from a member of the opposite sex.”

“To cure malaria, chills, fever, and ague all you need is a hickory peg about a foot long. Drive it into the ground in some secluded place, where you can visit it unseen. Do not tell anyone about this business. Go there every day, pull up the peg, blow seven times into the hole, and replace the peg. After you have done this for twelve successive days, drive the peg deep into the earth so that it cannot be seen, and leave it there. You’ll have no more chills and fever that season. If the cure doesn’t work, it means that you have been seen blowing into the hole, or that you have inadvertently mentioned it to somebody.”

“Any posthumous child can cure the croup simply by blowing in the patient’s mouth; one of my neighbors happened to be born several weeks after his father’s death, and although he ridicules the healing power himself, he is frequently called out of his bed at night by distracted parents who want him to save their children. The same treatment is used for sore mouth in babies, a white, cotton-like eruption which is called thrash or thresh.”

“In certain backwoods settlements in Arkansas it is believed that all one need do to cure thrash is to have a preacher blow in the child’s mouth. A preacher I know tells me he; has done this hundreds of times, although he has little faith in the remedy. ‘They git well, all right,’ he said, ‘but I can’t see as they git well any quicker’n them which I don’t blow in their mouth. But there aint no harm in it, an’ I aim to ‘commodate folks whenever I can.’”