Title: Midwife
Birthdate: 1811
Death Date: July 14, 1896
Plot Location: Section 104, Lot 41

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The modern title of “medical doctor” applies to one who is academically trained and credentialed to practice medicine. In years past it was often used to describe any person who made it their business to help people heal. They may have been advocates of alternative medicine or folk remedies, or they were midwives who appropriated the title because that’s how their patients referred to them.

Marguerite de Dardine was born in France but it’s not known when she immigrated or what training and experience she had to become a practicing midwife. It’s not known when she married or the first name of her husband. She did have personal experience in birthing her own children, and in some places that was sufficient qualification to become a midwife.

She had two sons, Emile (1848-1935) and Charles (1850-1899). There was no husband listed in the 1860 census but Marguerite’s occupation was not listed as most wives were, “keeping house.” City directories as early as 1861 list her occupation as “accoucheuse,” or midwife, which she probably had been practicing for years. She did so for at least 30 years while residing at 520 South 4th Street in Society Hill. She remained there until about 1893 when she lived briefly with Emile’s family in Atlantic City. 

An instance of her being regarded as a medical professional was reported as early as 1862. Marguerite went to court to insist that she be reimbursed for giving her patient a quart of medicine every day for almost ten months. The patient had dropsy, or an abnormal accumulation of fluid. 

The husband probably thought that, after ten months, the treatment was a farce. He was probably right, but the court sided with Marguerite, adding credibility to her practice and reputation.

The census in 1870 lists Marguerite as a “doctoress,” and ten years later the word “doctress” was overwritten by “midwife.” Emile and wife Rachel were living with his mother when their first child, Elizabeth Marguerite Petroff, was born in 1877. Two months later the child died of gastritis or stomach inflammation. She was the first in the family to be buried at Mount Moriah. 

On the death certificate, the signature line for “M.D.” was signed by Marguerite. In those days that would have been accepted as normal since births resulting in death were documented by the attendant, whether midwife or doctor. 

Toward the end of the 1800s, midwifery began to take a back seat to physicians in urban areas as medical knowledge expanded and was disseminated among their peers. The homeopathic ideas and traditions practiced by midwives began to appear in stark contrast to more “modern” remedies suggested by physicians.

When Marguerite died in 1896 she was living with Charles and his family on Gaskill Street, just around the corner from her former home on 4th Street. She was buried here with her infant granddaughter, as would be Emile, his wife, their other daughter and her husband.

Her grave marker, in the shape of a cross, includes a monogram of her initials in the center and an inscription on the base.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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