Nancy and Elizabeth Williams Tombstone, Trinity Churchyard

A tombstone for a young mother and her child. Elizabeth died at two months in 1839. Two months later her mother died as well. Did she die of the same disease? Cholera was very popular in Pittsburgh in the 1830s, but there seems to have been a lull in the epidemics in 1839. Perhaps Nancy died of grief, as mothers often did in those days. (Today we would look for another diagnosis, but modern medical science agrees that psychological factors play a large role in the body’s ability to overcome serious ailments.) Grief also reached epidemic proportions in the nineteenth century, when childhood mortality was, by our standards, appalling.

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