Catherine Kaidyee was probably born in York County around 1695, the only daughter and one of two children of William Kaidyee and Martha Kaidyee. She married William Blaikley, a James City County watchmaker, on September 11, 1718. The couple had at least three daughters, one of whom is known to have reached adulthood, and two sons who died young. Another child may have been William Blaikley’s son by a previous marriage. The Blaikleys enjoyed a comfortable standard of living at the time of William Blaikley’s death. He was buried on May 30, 1736, and his will was proved on June 21, 1736. An estate inventory taken then includes several slaves, japanned tea tables, looking glasses, pictures, a silver cup, teaspoons, and tea tongs.
Catherine Blaikley had a long and active widowhood. She inherited her husband’s entire estate, including fifty acres of land in Henrico County, a mill in Brunswick County, and a town lot in Williamsburg, where she resided. As the capital of colonial Virginia, Williamsburg provided Blaikley with the opportunity to lease rooms and supply board to men who were attending to legal and political business in town. Providing lodging was an acceptable economic pursuit for a widow in eighteenth-century Virginia, and she seems to have prospered. Maintaining her own account with a Yorktown merchant, she purchased goods and paid in cash. In August 1769 she advertised for a lost red morocco pocketbook, the contents of which (seven or eight pounds in paper money, some bills, some silver, business receipts, and other papers, including one about some drugs) suggest that she had maintained her standard of living.
The reference to drugs highlights Blaikley’s fame as a midwife in Williamsburg and its vicinity. She had probably begun her career as a midwife by 1739. While Blaikley was no ordinary woman, her prominence was based on socially accepted pursuits for self-supporting women. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, offering lodging and midwifery were means by which a woman could support herself in an economy based largely on credit and barter. At the time of her death the Virginia Gazette praised her as “an eminent Midwife” who brought “upwards of three Thousand Children into the World.” The population of the capital consisted then of about 2,000 people, so she had delivered the equivalent of one-and-a-half times the entire population of the city.
Blaikley’s life reveals the options and the limits on the options that were available to able and ambitious women in urban areas in eighteenth-century Virginia. By the time of her death male midwives were appearing on the scene, and in November 1771 another Virginia midwife announced that she had studied and practiced midwifery with the local male doctors. During the remaining years of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth, physicians gradually displaced female midwives in the traditional role of assistants at childbirth.
An undated notice in a October 24, 1771, Williamsburg newspaper announced the death of Blaikley. Her tombstone in the cemetery at Bruton Parish Church gave her date of death as October 25, 1771, however, and as newspapers at this time were occasionally published a day or two after the date on their mastheads, the latter date cannot be ruled out.