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Friday, May 19, 2017

Mary Riley

When Mary Riley was born on June 2, 1665, in West Springfield, Massachusetts, her father, Captain John Riley, was 18, and her mother, Margaret O'Dea, was 22. She had two brothers and two sisters. She died on May 19, 1736, in her hometown at the age of 70.

There is no photo of her grave but this is the inscription from her stone.

Here lyeth the Body of
MRS Mary ELy
The wife of Deac'n Joseph ELy
who died the 19th of May 
in the 71 year of her age
Old Meadow Cemetery 
West Springfield
Hampden County
Massachusetts, USA

I am sure it was not an easy life in the early 17th century.
 most households in the countryside were largely self-sufficient. A housewife (assisted by her servants if she had any) had to bake her family's bread and brew their beer (it was not safe to drink water). She was also responsible for curing bacon, salting meat and making pickles, jellies and preserves (all of which were essential in an age before fridges and freezers). Very often in the countryside the housewife also made the families candles and their soap. A housewife also spun wool and linen.
The 17th century housewife was also supposed to have some knowledge of medicine and be able to treat her family's illnesses. If she could not they would go to a wise woman. Only the wealthy could afford a doctor.

 In a big house they had to organize and supervise the servants. Also if her husband was away the woman usually ran the estate. Very often a merchant's wife did his accounts and if was travelling she looked after the business. Often when a merchant wrote his will he left his business to his wife - because she would be able to run it.

 Towards the end of the 16th century girls spent less time on academic subjects and more time on skills like music and embroidery. Moreover during the 17th century boarding schools for girls were founded in many towns. In them girls were taught subjects like writing, music and needlework. The first women's magazine was The Ladies Mercury published in 1693.

In the 17th century most women were wives and mothers. Life could be hard for spinsters. Often they lived with relatives but they had to work long hours to support themselves.
In the 17th century women wore a linen nightie like garment called a shift. Over it they wore long dresses. The dress was in two parts the bodice and the skirt. Sometimes women wore two skirts. The upper skirt was gathered up to reveal an underskirt. However women in the 17th century did not wear knickers.
From the mid 17th century it was fashionable for women to wear black patches on their faces such as little stars or crescent moons.

Unknown artist

For her time she lived a long life dying at age 70.

Deaths in young adulthood from accidents, epidemics, plagues, wars, and childbirth, particularly before modern medicine was widely available, significantly lowers LEB. But for those who survive early hazards, a life expectancy of 60 or 70 would not be uncommon. 

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