|So how does a violently insane wife, mother, and church member manage to stay out of jail?|
In February of 1656-7, just a couple of months after scattering Elizabeth Ball’s three children to other homes, Watertown Selectmen Mason and Bairstow draw the assignment to lay down the law to Mary’s mother.
I’d be very interested to know how the daily task of carding “two Skaines of Cotton or sheeps wooll” compares with the work output of a normal housewife. Also, the daughter in question must have been Mary, who by this time was living in her grandparents’ household. One wonders how the communications worked, but imagination will have to serve.
This episode affords a wonderful insight into the principles underlying the management of what we now call “mental illness,” in the days of our pioneer ancestors. A few years later, Grandma Elizabeth might have been caught up in the celebrated witch persecutions, but nobody seems to have attributed her antisocial behavior to demonic possession.
|… Am I just naïf, or is it passing strange that there should be yet another little Ball (Abigail, according to Bond “b in Wat.. Ap. 20 1658, and d. soon”) to provide for, at that same meeting of the Selectmen (20 September 1658)?|
Let’s see…a six-month-old child in the fall of 1658…that means that the matrimonial fire had some spark left in the summer of 1657—two years after Grandma Elizabeth was declared insane and the older kids were scattered. “Go figure” isn’t a very coherent response, but I don’t seem to have another.
These deliberations set the baby up for a year’s care in the home of the family of Anthony White, at John Ball’s expense. Not at all clear how they planned for this one to bridge the gap to the magical age of five. ’Twould appear, alas, that little Abigail died in time to render the issue moot.
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William and Mary
Updated Sep 2021
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