Monday, January 20, 2014

Taking the Waters at Bath

Bath was famous for its mineral waters since Roman times, hence the name Bath. Drinking and bathing in the waters was, and still is, considered good for the health in many such spas around the world. At the mineral pools, people would don long gowns and wade about. I found a photo of a bathing gown used by Martha Washington during her visits to Warm Springs at Berkeley, West Virginia. The Washington family frequented the springs, mainly for the benefit of her daughter Patsy, who suffered from epilepsy. Martha's gown is made of a blue and white checked yarn-dyed linen, with small lead weights sewn into the hem to keep it from floating up. 

Poor Patsy (Martha Parke Custis), began having seizures when she was 11 and her condition grew worse as time went on. The Washingtons tried everything known to current medicine to help her, with no effect. In 1773, when she was 17, Patsy died during a severe seizure. George Washington was devastated by her death, having been her doting stepfather since she was a toddler. 

So much is made of Bath as a fashionable spa destination, where people went to see and be seen, but I often think of all the truly ill people hoped against hope that they could find relief. It reminds me of the desperate crowd around the Pools of Siloam and Bethesda in Jerusalem, described in the Gospel of John.

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