Partnership of Historic Bostons

Donations allow the all–volunteer Partnership to continue its free programs.  You will become a Member of the Partnership of the Historic Bostons for a donation of $35 or more.



Welcome to Medicine and Mortality in 17th-Century Boston. In this series of free events and talks, we invite you to explore the transitional moments of the 17th century. You’ll enter a world of physicians and midwives, herbalists and bloodletters, when Colonists and Native Americans met on the battlefield, epidemics swept through communities, and ministers joined prayer to medicine.


This series of free talks is presented by the Partnership of Historic Bostons, a non-profit, all-volunteer group which brings to life the people and ideas of 17th-century Massachusetts. We hold walking tours, lectures, events, discussions and more. Join us!

"17th-Century Medicine Defined: A Glossary  of Medical Terms from Amputation to Zotica" 
Below the completed programs, you will see a list of our partners
without whom we could not do this work.
Thursday, September 7
Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington Street, Boston

FREE admission for Massachusetts residents from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM to commemorate the naming of our Boston for Boston, Lincolnshire. 
Bells ring at 4:30 PM to commemorate the naming of Boston, Dorchester, and Watertown. Both Park Street Church and King's Chapel bells will ring in Boston. LISTEN to Paul Revere's "largest and sweetest" bell at King's Chapel.
Founders Trail Tour

Follow in the footsteps of early Bostonians by taking our fabulous Founders Trail tour. Walking through the area of Boston's original settlement, you'll learn about the city's first founders, from Governor John Winthrop to the controversial Anne Hutchinson.

With our experienced and knowledgeable tour guide, you'll visit the Founders Memorial, the site of the Great Spring, the first Puritan Meeting House, and more.  Meet inside the Common at the corner of Park and Tremont Streets as Park Street Church bells ring.

Our tours are free, but we'd be grateful for a donation of $10 (or more!)

4:30 PM to 6:00 PM

Wednesday, September 13

"Monstrous Births, Powerful Midwives:

The Battle over Women’s Bodies

in 17th-Century Boston"


Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston Street, Boston  6:00 PM

Rabb Hall on the lower level, 

Women in 17th-century Boston healed the sick and cared for the wounded.  They alone served as midwives, overseeing the dramatic, life-or-death moment of childbirth.  In this way, women had a great deal of power.   But their power was only in private. In public, women were powerless.


Eve LaPlante, author of American Jezebel, will guide us into the world of midwives, female healers, and “monstrous births.”  Learn how Puritans viewed women’s power and women’s bodies in this life and in the afterlife.


"Monstrous Births, Powerful Midwives: 
The Battle over Women’s Bodies 
in 17th-Century Boston" 
Eve LaPlante, Boston Public Library

Friday, September 15

  "Disease, Science, and Religion

in the World of the Puritans"

Park Street Church, One Park Street, Boston       6:00 pm

Disease came in many forms in the 17th century for both Native Americans and Europeans, but neither the causes nor cures were fully understood.  With one foot in Galen's Roman-era theories of medicine and one foot in the new world, 17th-century New England life fostered a strong spirit of invention.  You will learn how the Puritans saw the relationship between the religion and medicine and how beliefs in witchcraft, possession by evil spirits, and mental disturbances affected the new science of mental health. 

Francis J. Bremer, PhD, is Professor Emeritus at Millersville University,  author or editor of sixteen books and numerous articles exploring 17th-century Puritanism in the Atlantic world, and editor of the Winthrop Papers for the Massachusetts Historical Society.  His presentations on many Charter Days have helped Bostonians learn much more about this significant period.

Dr. Francis J. Bremer's Presentation at Park Street Church
“Disease, Science, and Religion in the Worlds of the Puritans” 
Click HERE.

Saturday, September 16
"Poxes and Prescriptions in Old Boston:
A Medical Walking Tour"

Starting with the great epidemic of 1633 that wiped out natives and newcomers alike throughout New England, smallpox was a recurring enemy to all Bostonians. In this unique walking tour, you’ll step into the past and learn how a medico-religious conception of disease in early Boston slowly evolved to improve the health of its people.


Join us for this fascinating walk through a little-known slice of Boston history. 


Sunday, September 17
"Integrative Healing:
Religion and Medicine"

First Church in Boston
66 Marlborough Street, Boston, at the corner of Berkeley Street  11:00 AM to Noon

The Reverend Stephen Kendrick, Senior Minister
The First Church in Boston

Unitarian-Universalist service held at Boston's oldest religious institution, established in 1630.  All are invited.

Reflections presented on the essential role of the early churches for survival in colonial Boston (c1630s). In making strong demands on human nature, the colonists, by their solemn commitment, established a society where the will of God would be observed in every detail. Puritan ministers, men of liberal education, were conscientious in healing the body as well as in saving the soul.

"The Commonhealth of Massachusetts"
The Reverend Stephen Kendrick, Senior Minister 
First Church in Boston, Founded 1630
Wednesday, September 27
"Privies and Peach Pits: 
Public Health in Puritan Boston"
New England Historic Genealogical Society
99-101 Newbury Street, Boston     6:00 PM

History is not just in books. Our knowledge about the Puritans of 17th-century Boston keeps growing. An active urban archaeology program allows new discoveries to be made on a regular basis. In this exciting presentation, you’ll see how the things the Puritans left behind, from doll heads to DNA, tell the stories of not only how they lived but how they died.

Our presenters will talk about views of disease and public health in 17th Century Boston, and how illnesses were managed on the local and colony level – including our earliest public health legislation.

Joseph Bagley, City of Boston Archeologist, will present the archeological work he has done related to public health in the 17th century.

Alfred DeMaria, Jr., MD, is the State Epidemiologist and Medical Director of the Bureau of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts Department of Public Health.  He will talk about views of disease and public health in 17th-century Boston, and measures taken on the local and colony level, including early legislation.

Saturday, September 30
"Poxes and Prescriptions in Old Boston:
A Medical Walking Tour"
Starting with the great epidemic of 1633 that wiped out natives and newcomers alike throughout New England, smallpox was a recurring enemy to all Bostonians. In this unique walking tour, you’ll step into the past and learn how a medico-religious conception of disease in early Boston slowly evolved to improve the health of its people.


"Violence, Disease, and Public Medicine during the Pequot & King Philip’s Wars"
Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street, Boston  1:00 to 3:00 PM
Regional warfare, genocidal events, and disease during the Pequot War (1636-1637) and King Philip’s War (1675-1676) had a profound effect on southern New England’s Native population and forever changed the cultural landscape of the region. We will cover the experiences of Native and Colonial peoples living with conflict, healing and the disease that swept indiscriminately through their communities during some of New England’s bloodiest wars. 

Kevin McBride, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut and the Director of Research at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center. Former member of the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Museum of Natural History and of the Governor's Task Force on Indian Affairs, he has written numerous articles on Native American and Colonial archaeology.

Ashley Bissonnette, PhD, is the Senior Researcher at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center and Adjunct Professor of Health Sciences at Eastern Connecticut State University. Her dissertation was “Pestilences of New England’s First Wars, Disease, Medicine and Colonial Trauma during the Pequot and King Philip’s Wars.” She specializes in Colonial and Native American history, Colonial trauma, and ethnomedicine.
Tuesday, October 3
"When there is No Doctor: 
Home Remedies of 17th-Century Boston"
Old North Church and Historic Site, 193 Salem Street, Boston  6:30 to 8:30 PM

The major force in 17th-century Boston healthcare was within the home.  Housewives were the healers because doctors were rare and expensive. Housewives had a wealth of recipes for ailments ranging from gout and headaches to severe wounds and kidney stones. Most of the recipes were botanical in nature, but many involved chemical ingredients, magic, exotic ingredients, and astrological conditions.

You are invited to visit the St. Francis Garden before 6:30 PM.

Lori Lyn Price, an expert in botanical domestic medicine, will cover the role of the housewife in caring for her family, how she conceptualized and understood illness in line with 17th-century practice, the common illnesses she encountered, and the recipes and treatments she used.

For more information and to register, click HERE.
When There is no Doctor: Home Remedies of 17th-Century Boston"
Lori Lyn Price, Old North Church & Historic Site 

November 28
"Epidemics, Conflict, and Caregiving Among Native Americans and Puritans"
Old State House, 206 Washington Street, Boston     7:00 PM

The arrival of Europeans brought a period of unprecedented suffering for the native tribes living in southern New England in the seventeenth century. Early encounters with passing ships set the stage with illnesses (“The Great Dying”) that killed many Massachuset and Wampanoag. Epidemics struck again in 1633 – just three years after the establishment of Boston – when smallpox spread from the colonists into Native American populations throughout the northeast.

There are also many examples of empathy and caregiving between the groups during times of illness. Both the causes of the epidemic and the human reactions were much more nuanced – and humane – than most people realize.

David S. Jones, MD  A. Barnard Ackerman Professor of the Culture of Medicine
                                  Harvard University
Nathaniel Sheidley, PhD, Executive Director, The Bostonian Society
Charter Day happens each year because of the monetary support of the Winthrop Society, our PHB Members, and the in-kind support of local historical organizations.  The PHB is grateful to all who help.  We invite everyone to visit these great sites online and in person.

The Winthrop Society, major supporter of the Partnership of Historic Bostons, is dedicated to honoring and preserving the memory, philosophy, and tradition of the Puritans and transmitting their example of courage, faith, civic duty, and integrity.

The Winthrop Society currently consists of descendants of the first settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It is open to all men and women of good character and proven descent from one or more passengers of the Winthrop fleet, or of others who settled in the Bay Colony and down east by the end of 1640.

The Society site has Puritan documents available to all under Texts.

Boston Public Library
The Bostonian Society
Church of the Good Shepherd, Watertown, Massachusetts

Dorchester Historical Society

Downtown Boston Residents' Association
First Church in Boston
Historical Society of Watertown
Massachusetts Historical Society
National Park Service
New England Historic Genealogical Society  American Ancestors
Old North Church and Historic Site
Old South Meeting House

Park Street Church
Redeemer Fellowship Church, Watertown, Massachusetts

Why September 7?
In 1630, a  Puritan fleet of 11 ships with nearly 1,000 passengers sailed for New England with the Charter from King Charles I.  Many Puritans settled at Trimountaine on the Shawmut Peninsula.

About 10 percent of Boston, a port city in Lincolnshire, England, came to Trimountaine including five future Governors. Bostonian Thomas Dudley suggested that Trimountaine be renamed after the English town. The Court agreed, and on September 7, 1630, the new town of Boston came officially into existence as the capital of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  On the left is St. Botolph's Parish Church in Lincolnshire, known as The Stump. 
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