The Historical Bridget Hodgson
Non-Spoiler Alert: In this section I'll discuss the historical version of The Midwife's Story's narrator. Note that have made many changes in her story, and hope to make many more in subsequent books. There are no spoilers here!
I first encountered the historical Bridget Hodgson in May, 2001, while I was conducting research for my doctoral dissertation at the Borthwick Institute for Historical Research, in York, England. By pure chance, I opened a box of wills from December, 1685, and saw the words, “I, Bridget Hodgson, of the City of York, Midwife...” At that moment I knew that I had found a remarkable document. While I'd read hundreds of wills (which is rather more fun than it sounds!), I'd never found one by a woman who described herself as anything other than "Widow" or "Spinster." Bridget chose to define herself not by her marital status, but by her profession.
Thanks to the generosity of the Borthwick's Keeper of the Archives, you can view a copy of the original will. Because the handwriting can be a bit off-putting, I have also included a transcript of the will.
As I read more of her will, it became clear that Bridget was no less remarkable than the will she's left, and I went on to write an article about her, her assistant Martha, and many of her friends and clients. While I have taken a number of liberties in creating the literary Bridget Hodgson, I thought some readers might like to get to know her historical counterpart.
In the pages that follow, I will discuss what little we know of the historical Bridget's life before she came to York, and give the reader a sense of her character. I will also sketch out what we know of her familial and social connections within the city, and see what the archives can tell us about her midwifery practice.