Friday, 4 April 2014

A further detail to the story of Kitty Martineau

I have just found a note – as I continue to go through the last of my papers – to add to the story of Katherine Dawson Martineau, as told in the story of Helen Savile Clarke and her daughters.

Kitty, a beauty with "violet eyes," died a few days after the birth of her son Esmond, on 7 December 1901.  She was looking quite well and was receiving visitors, when she called, "Nurse! nurse!" and died.
The story comes from her second cousin Madge Buchannan and may be true.

Her death certificate gives the cause of death as:
Alcoholism, eight months
Child Birth, four days
Acute Uraemia, four days
certified by Robert Boxall, M.D., of 40 Portland Place, Marylebone, present at the death
I didn't include this detail in the original piece, as I felt unqualified to comment on it.

As far as I understand, "uraemia" is more an observation of symptoms than a diagnosis.  I notice that the Revised US Standard Certificate of Death instructions to be found in Mortality Statistics, vol 9 by the US Board of Census (1909), states
“Never report mere symptoms or terminal conditions such as […] “Uraemia” […] when a definite disease can be ascertained as the cause.  Always qualify all diseases resulting from childbirth or miscarriage."
So Dr Boxall’s certificate of 1901 would not have impressed the US authorities in 1909.  I think all that can be ascertained (in absence of someone experienced in historical medical terminology) is that she died four days after child birth and that her kidneys had been affected.  And to think of that beautiful woman, who had lost her parents and her sisters so suddenly and in such a short space of time, suffering from alcoholism through her pregnancy – that's just too sad to comment on.

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