Bibliodyssey, a fantastic, unstoppable resource for endlessly interesting images and ideas, celebrates its 1000th post today. Its creator and master, “Peacay”, has provided a tremendous visual resource to those interested in history and design and art and all manner of oddiana, important and not, big and small, significant and ephemeral. I estimate that in his 1000 posts that there must be 10,000-20,000 images. It is a beautiful and exhaustive site of high quality, it is hard to think of it all being created and maintained by one man. It exposes its readers to such a expanded selection of very highly unusual sources that it is impossible not to come away from each post with an idea.
Looking at his post today—which is a review of the most popular/interesting posts, I worked my way through the “remarkable people” segment and came across some extraordinary, outsider-y, edge-of-society folks. There were those more interesting than Sarah Mapp—the person I’m choosing to write about right now—though I think none have a more curious, ethereal or causative descriptor than she. She is referenced as a shape mistress.
Sarah was one of the most famous of the 18th c (ca. 1730’s) women “doctors”/quacks/potent peddlers/pill makers/medicant dabblers, and was evidently a “colorful”, unique package of a person. A daughter of a bone setter, Sarah was described as one herself, as well as a “shape setter”, which is just simply a beautiful term. She was born Sally Wallin until her marriage to Mr. Mapp, who beat and abused her soon after marriage, after which, evidently, she took to London to ply her trade. Ms. Mapp rode in a glorious chariot pulled aby a four-horse team, charging 20 guineas a session (at times), and would make her return trip with the crutches of those she had cured displayed proudly on her coach. She was successful—I’m not sure what that actually means, probably that she reset broken bones without causing deformities—and then not so. Forty years after her death, aristocrat and physician Percival Potts sought to scrub Ms. Mapp (also known as "Crazy Sally of Epson") from medical memory, calling her “an ignorant, illiberal, drunken female savage”. (This sentiment was echoed in an 1884 edition of the American Journal of Pharmacy, vol 93. page 534, which less fluently descirbed her as an drunken, ugly, gross and cross eyed sot.)
Ms. Mapp was a (wild?) maverick in a very small field of women practioners, a collection without collective, never joined or organized. High case of weird or not, she was a significant figure in getting women into a more public place, dealing with women and men, a certainly uncommon occurrence.
See: Power and the Professions in Early Industrial Britain, by Penelope J. Corfield, 1995. http://bibliodyssey.blogspot.com/2007/05/remarkable-persons.html