walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Let me tell you a little story about Abiah Darby and her daughters

It's a great story.

Here's a major source for the story:


Once upon a time, there was a copy of Bailey's _Dictionarium Domesticum_, which was sort of a handbook of how to run a household. A man named Abraham Darby II gave it to his second wife, Abiah, on the occasion of their marriage in 1746. Abiah became a Quaker minister (yes, Virginia, women could become Quaker ministers), and was known for riding her horse all over the place, even when far along in pregnancy. She kept a diary and lived to be 78. She had four children who survived long enough to get married: Abraham III, Mary (who would marry a Rathbone and become some whatever ancestress of Basil), Sarah, and Samuel. The Darbys had a partnership with some Reynolds, and owned the Coalbrookdale Company, which even I had heard of, because, you know, they were really important in making iron actually useful.

In 1758, Abraham II talked Abiah into agreeing to inoculate all four of the kids against smallpox, because they knew someone whose kid died of it.

Abraham III married a woman named Rebecca Smith (ha! only some of my readers will find this amusing), and died of scarlet fever. Bummer. Samuel married a woman named Deborah (double ha! probably not one of my readers will understand why I think that's funny), who became a Quaker minister like Abiah, her mum-in-law. After he died, Rebecca, Deborah, Mary and Sarah run the Coalbrookdale Company. Yes, four women were running Coalbrookdale when Richard Trevithick (wait for it) needed someone to build "the world's first steam locomotive for him during the winter of 1802."

Yes, dear readers, Abiah's daughters and daughters-in-law made the first steam locomotive. Sweet.

Back to that cookbook. I had been getting very suspicious about how Quakers kept turning up in _Eat My Words_. Also, the women whose cookbooks survived to our day seemed to live suspiciously long lives. I now have a theory: Quaker women don't cook complicated stuff, so they basically memorize what they need to do and don't wear out the book. In any event, I decided to research Abiah because (a) dude, with a name like that, you have to ask? (b) I continue to be deeply suspicious of everything Theophano has to say.

Here is what Theophano had to say about Abiah:

"I found this dedication in an edition of Bailey's Dictionarium, a popular household book of the eighteenth century in England and America {inscription starts} Abiah Darby, her book, 1746, given her by her husband, 7th month, 3:1746. [subsequently owned by] Mary Darby and Sarah Darby until 1827 {end inscription} The inscription catalogs the generational links forged between the women of one family for nearly one hundred years. Each of the two or three successive signatures adds to a carefully recorded geneaology. Although the book was a gift from her husband, Mrs. Darby passed the book in the female line for nearly a century, it seems. Two separate inscriptions in the book suggest that it was passed from mother to daughter (and perhaps sisters), with each successor adding her name to the pages." p 105

First off, I hope that if Theophano is the owner of the book in question, she donates it to the Ironbridge Gorge Museums; I think they'd _love_ to have it for their collection.

Second, it just was not that hard to figure out who Mary and Sarah were. And it just isn't that amazing that when mum died, her cookbook went to her daughters. After all, this family was passing _Coalbrookdale Company_ down to their daughters and daughters-in-law. What's a fucking cookbook compared to that?

I haven't been able to nail down when Mary Rathbone nee Darby died, but 1827 would be about right. There's nothing particularly exciting about a cookbook hanging about a family for two generations. Particularly a family as prudent and frugal as a bunch of Quakers running an ironworks.
Tags: not-a-book-review
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