Elizabeth lives in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia with her husband, two teenage sons and a menagerie of three dogs, two cats and several chickens. She spends more time than she cares to contemplate on the local junior soccer competition, has what most people consider too many books, and nurses a well-known passion for tea, coffee and chocolate. Since she lives surrounded by apple orchards she considers it lucky that she likes apples almost as much as she likes chocolate biscuits.
Connect with Elizabeth through her website... click HERE
Secret Women's Business
Mid-wives certainly knew which herbs would prevent a pregnancy or end one. Queen Anne’s Lace, Pennyroyal, Tansy and Rue among others, all work. All have been known for centuries and the knowledge was right there in the pharmacopoeias under such phrases as “to regulate the menses.”
Apart from midwives it seems likely that women who made their living as courtesans, or at least had a less rarefied up-bringing than your average Regency miss, probably knew how to avoid conceiving. Very few of the well-known courtesans of the 18th and 19th centuries had children. Harriette Wilson, Elizabeth Armistead, Cora Pearl and Catherine Walters, to name a few. One exception was Wilson’s one-time friend Julia Johnstone who had a dozen children by her lover, Colonel Cotton. Tellingly, before her fall from grace, Julia was a well-brought up young lady.
John Riddle’s book, Eve’s Herbs (Harvard University Press, 1997) is a fascinating account of herbal contraception through the ages and he points out that this was very much women’s knowledge and was passed on orally from woman to woman, right up to the mid-twentieth century when the Pill arrived.
Faced with the prospect of becoming mistress to an Earl with whom she is rapidly falling in love, Lucy worries about the risk bringing an innocent child into the disaster of her life. In the following scene she is given some very practical advice by her landlady. I went with Queen Anne’s Lace because after checking out a number of works on herbal remedies it seemed the easiest to use.
Read an excerpt from Elizabeth's January 2016 Release... IN DEBT TO THE EARL
‘Mrs Beattie. Good evening.’ She blinked at the coal. ‘Um, I haven’t paid the rent yet.’ And didn’t know how she was going to find the money anyway.
Mrs Beattie came over and put the bucket down by the fire. ‘Your man did that.’
‘What?’ Lucy’s stomach knotted. Every feminine instinct screamed a warning.
‘Coal, too, he said.’
How could she refuse him if he’d paid the rent?
Mrs Beattie set her hands on her hips. ‘Thought I’d bring some up while he was out.’ The lady’s mouth was a flat line. ‘Got something to say that he don’ need to hear. Ain’t my business, but I’m going to say it.’
Realising she’d have more chance of stopping a runaway coach, Lucy nodded dazedly.
‘Mr Wynn’s got the right of it…’ Mrs Beattie began.
‘Aye. Took one look at your fancy man just now and said you’d done right well for yourself.’ Mrs Beattie looked around. ‘Can’t blame him for not wantin’ to do it here. Dessay it ain’t quite what he’s used to. Dine off gold plate, that sort.’
Didn’t want to do what here? Lucy had no idea what that was about, although she thought gold plate an exaggeration, but Mrs Beattie hadn’t finished.
‘Thing is, I reckon you don’t know what’s what,’ she said. ‘Maybe you believe he’s just lookin’ for yer pa, maybe you don’t—’
‘No.’ She waved Lucy to silence. ‘I’ll say me piece. Thing is, he reckons he ain’t out to take you for a ride. Dunno who he’s trying to fool. Me, you, maybe himself, but take it from me, a man don’t pay a girl’s rent less he wants something, and you—’ she pointed at Lucy ‘—need to know what’s what, or you will get took for a ride.’
Lucy swallowed. If Lord Cambourne had paid the rent she wouldn’t be on the street tomorrow, but she knew what he expected in return.
Mrs Beattie continued. ‘Lord knows men don’t worry about these things.’ Her lip curled. ‘Sweet as pie, when they’re getting what they want from a girl, but God help her once he’s got it an’ she’s got his brat planted in her belly.’
Lucy blushed and Mrs Beattie nodded. ‘That’s right. Now, you know what happens, what goes where? All very well to worry about the chicken an’ the egg, but it’s what goes on with the rooster getting’ the egg into the chicken you got to think about now.’
Wondering if she could actually be any more embarrassed, Lucy nodded weakly. She had grown up in the country and knew how the fields got populated with lambs and calves each year, but speech was beyond her.
‘Right. What you won’t know is that there’s ways of not catching.’ Mrs Beattie drew a canister from a pocket in her apron and opened it. ‘These here is Queen Anne’s Lace seeds. You chew a spoonful, with water, straight after, or as straight after as you can.’
‘Straight after—? Oh.’
Understanding crashed over Lucy and with it, shame. All this time she had thought of Mrs Beattie as the foe, even disliked her. And here she was, offering practical advice and help in the best way she could. Maybe she did have a fairy godmother…
She stared at the seeds. ‘Mrs Beattie, you’re very kind, but—’
‘Don’t say you don’t need ’em, missy.’ Mrs Beattie’s scowl was thunderous. ‘Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. But it’s better to have `em when you don’t need ’em, than not have `em when you do.’ She put the lid back on and smacked the jar down on the table. ‘No need for anyone else to know what they are. Just a tonic for when you’re feeling poorly is all a man needs to know. Don’t like it when a girl takes precautions, do they?’ She snorted. ‘Like they’re the one as has to birth the brat an’ nurse it, an’ have everyone lookin’ sideways at ’em like you ain’t good enough to sweep a dirty crossing!’
She crossed her arms and glared at Lucy as if challenging her to dispute this blistering view of the world’s hypocrisy.
‘Do they really work?’
Mrs Beattie nodded. ‘Like a charm. I near died when the baby came. Me neighbour told me about these.’ She lowered her voice. ‘Reckoned it was just an old wives’ tale, I did. But I tried ’em, an’ I never caught again. Never told my man, neither. What a man don’t know can’t hurt you.’
IN DEBT TO THE EARL (coming in Jan 16)
Although yearning for love and comfort, Lucy resists the earl's surprising offer of protection. That is until a price is made on her virginity, and James is the only man who can save her