Author: Linda L. Sturtz


Susannah Sanders Cooper (d. after June 9, 1751)

Susannah Sanders Cooper tested restraints on married women‘s property ownership in eighteenth-century Virginia. In 1717 Susannah Sanders married Isles Cooper, but he had deserted her by 1720 and later illegally married at least two other women. Her husband’s creditors seized assets she had brought to her marriage. She later engaged in business in her own name, including operating an ordinary in New Kent County for many years. Early in the 1740s Cooper petitioned the House of Burgesses to protect her estate, to allow her to operate as a feme sole, and to enable her to bequeath her property to her son. The burgesses and governor’s Council agreed in 1744 and forwarded the bill to London for the Crown’s review. The Privy Council ignored the bill for many years and did not approve it. In June 1751 Cooper’s husband sold her property to a son born of one of his illegal marriages, after which Susannah Sanders Cooper disappeared from public records.


Catherine Kaidyee Blaikley (ca. 1695–1771)

Catherine Kaidyee Blaikley was a midwife who, during the mid-eighteenth century in Virginia, purportedly delivered as many as three thousand babies. Probably born in York County, Blaikley married a watchmaker who, when he died in 1736, left her a substantial estate, including land in Henrico County, a mill in Brunswick County, and a lot in Williamsburg. Catherine Blaikley maintained her relatively high standard of living by becoming a midwife in Williamsburg in 1739. By the time of her death in 1771, male midwives also were delivering babies, a process that led to male physicians gradually replacing female midwives.