Monday, January 7, 2013

Falling in Love with an Older Woman (350 years Older)

“I Bridget Hodgson of the City of York, Midwife”
Though I could not have known it at the time, these words – found in a 1683 will – changed my life. I first read these words while a graduate student digging through the archives in York, England, and on that spring day I fell in love with an older woman. Even to this day, I struggle to explain my devotion, but I want to try again.

In truth, Bridget had me at “midwife” because in 1683, women were widows, wives, or spinsters. They were identified by who they married not what they did. Yet here she was, saying “I’m a midwife! Get over it!” What kind of woman does this? I wondered. And while the hook was set, Bridget had only just begun to win my heart.

When she wrote her will, Bridget’s first concern was that her funeral reflected her status, and once again, she amazed: “I do direct that Sir John Hewley, Sir Henry Thompson, Sir Stephen Thompson, George Pricket Esq., Edward Thompson, Alderman, Robert Waller, Alderman, William Breary Doctor of Laws, and Thomas Fairfax Esq., be invited to carry me to my grave.” Wait, I thought. She wants knights, lawyers and aldermen (and Lord-Mayors and Members of Parliament, I later learned) to serve as her pallbearers? Who is this woman?

“And I give unto the heralds painter who shall order my funeral and make my escutcheons a mourning ring, and I desire Christopher Harrison may do the work.” Wait, what? Herald’s painter? Escutcheons? (Runs to dictionary.) She’s having someone paint her coat of arms, which means she’s a Gentlewoman. I love her, but will I have to call her “Lady Bridget” from now on?

I’d only known this woman for a few paragraphs, but already I knew that she was a midwife, politically well-connected, and a member of England’s hereditary gentry. This was an unusual woman, but there was much more to come. It turns out that she was quite rich, for at a time when a laborer might earn fifteen pounds per year, she had loaned hundreds of pounds to her friends, and given her daughter “my coral necklace and bracelets, my large ring with two and twenty stones… and also a sealed ring of gold with my late husband’s coat of arms and my own engraven on the same.”

I know what you are thinking. I only loved Bridget for her money. And I can’t say that it didn’t intrigue me, but I really did love her for her personality, and this became clear when she listed her godchildren, who – as godmother – she had the privilege of naming: “I give unto the several persons…for whom I was Godmother ten shillings apiece, to wit: Bridget Swain, Bridget Ascough, Bridget Morris, Bridget Wilberfoss, Thomas Robinson, Edward Watson, and Thomas Horsley.” It’s one thing to give your name to your own child, but who gives their name to other people’s kids? Bridget Hodgson, the most awesome midwife ever, that’s who. Oh, she also named her daughter Bridget, so by the end of her life, she could have fielded an All-Bridget basketball team.

So when I sat down to write a novel about a crime-solving, butt-kicking midwife, could there be any question who my model would be? I made a few changes, of course, cutting out a few of her children (who has time to solve crimes and raise a family?), but throughout The Midwife’s Tale I have tried to remain true to the woman I love, and I can only hope the historical Bridget would see something of herself in the portrait I have painted. 

Want to win a copy of The Midwife's Tale? Leave a comment below, and your name will be entered in a drawing! 
You can order The Midwife's Tale from major vendors, from Amazon to Walrmart by going to my publisher's website . If you'd rather purchase a signed copy, or would like to support a great independent bookstore, you can order a copy from Mac's Backs on Coventry.


  1. Just reviewed 'The Midwife's Tale' on my blog. Stop by and check it out:


  2. I would love the chance to win a copy of The Midwife's Tale! It sound intriguing!

    nellista at yahoo dot com dot au

  3. This sounds like a fantastic book! Nothing like an intriguing start to hook me. Please enter me!
    Marilyn (

  4. Sounds really interesting - would love a copy - abbeybufo@gmail,com

  5. I'm very interested in historical novels set in York , where I live, and I would really like to read The Midwife's Tale it as soon as it comes out. I'm really glad you decided to write about York, such an intriguing and mysterious city! All the best. Antonella (

  6. Fantastic tale! Very interesting will.
    Midwives could be extremely important members of the community, and not only for the obvious reasons that they helped women in childbirth. They were often involved as 'expert witnesses' in cases involving illegitimacy, unexplained deaths of newborns, paternity disputes, and unfortunately also in cases of witchcraft. The 'searchers' who looked for witch-marks on the bodies of the accused were very often midwives, and their sworn testimony could make a big difference to whether someone was found guilty. Bridget was obviously an important and wealthy figure - I love the list of names and titles of her pall-bearers!

  7. Sam-

    I read the excerpt and enjoyed the story. You left it hanging at a good spot, I definitely want to read more! And I love that you were compelled to write this story. I am sure the history woven into the story is fascinating with your background.

    I would love to win this book! Sign me up.

    Stephanie Renee dos Santos

  8. Am always intrigued by stories of strong women in any era, eager to read this. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy. Best wishes for every success.

  9. Loved this blog about how you fell in love for Bridget! It's always so interesting to learn how inspiration strikes different authors. I would love to win this book!

  10. That's an interesting way of coming up with the character. Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed reading about it very much.

  11. This sounds most intriguing! Please enter me in the drawing!

  12. Thank you for the chance to win this book, it looks like a good one.

    griperang at embarqmail dot com

  13. Whimsical post! Bridge sounds like wonderful fodder for a story. Thanks for sharing!

    sophiarose1816 at gmail dot com

  14. Great blog post, Sam. The Midwife's Tale has been on my wish list for several months, but winning the drawing would allow me to live a few hours longer in my freezing-cold starving-artist's garret, and give me the hope and the will to struggle on. *wheeze* ;)

  15. Your blog post just sold me on this story! Thank you so much for the chance at winning it. :)


  16. Isn't it a stunning moment when a few short lines written so long ago can inspire a whole story? Ticks all my boxes, Sam...but most particularly the 17th century box.

  17. Sounds wonderful I love this Century...please enter me!
    Marilyn (ewatvess

  18. I loved this book and reviewed it on my blog. Would love to win a copy for my shelf.


  19. What a wonderful post! Going to look up the book! Fascinating!

  20. Please enter me so I can have my own copy instead of this borrowed one That I am reading fro the second time. This is a keeper for my permanent library. Our OB nurses reading group will al be getting this one.

    Eve, R.N.

  21. What a perfect read. Obstetrics, history and strong women all in one book set in the seventeenth century in York, no less. What more could a history buff nurse want? Reading it now for the second time but I need to be entered for my own copy, not this borrowed one.

    That is, a nurse with North Yorks ancestors and family history.

    Oh, bliss, thank you Sam Thomas


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