Mary had agreed to marry Stephen with hope and optimism. Her own family had little to offer her. Although her father called himself a shipbuilder, he was without property and had few financial resources. Now Mary, at the age of twenty-six was declared incurably insane. Several times, Girard had refused to have his wife committed despite her ranting and screaming day and night. Dr. John Jones managed to prepare an opium alkaloid for Mary which helped her get some needed rest. Girard finally agreed that the doctors were right. Mary needed full time professional attention that only a hospital could provide. After only eight years of marriage, Mary was interned in the Philadelphia Hospital.
It must be said that an unmarried woman taking on the household responsibilities as a mistress was not considered a pejorative role in the eighteenth century. Stephen needed a housekeeper and a companion. And surely Girard would not be considered unfaithful to his wife. Sarah or Sally Bickham was a Quaker and only eighteen years old. She had been working as a seamstress for a few years and had the occasion to do some mending for Girard.
Having observed the young woman for a short period, he proposed that Sally become his housekeeper and his mistress. Her responsibilities included the supervision of the cleaning personnel and the companionship of a bed mate.
Girard considered his new homemaker to be attractive but not beautiful as he considered Mary to be. It took him some time to warm up to Sally who had a bright mind and a clever sense of humor that Girard did not always appreciate. Soon her organizational skills and her ability to manage the household won him over. At that point he invited Sally to share his home.
Mary’s hospital accommodations were excellent. Girard spared no expense. She had a spacious comfortable apartment on the first floor of the hospital. She was allowed freedom of the hospital grounds and was permitted to have visitors with few restrictions. Unfortunately this freedom turned out to cause difficulties for the Pennsylvania Hospital as well as for Stephen and Mary.
An official of the hospital notified Girard five months after she had been admitted that she was pregnant. Girard was asked to take Mary home so that she could have her baby there. Girard refused. He made it clear to the hospital official that he had had no sexual relations with Mary for a very long time because of her illness and felt no responsibility for the pregnancy. When the hospital wondered if they should allow Mrs. Girard to stay there, Girard offered them an additional sum for her monthly upkeep and offered to pay all the costs related to the birth. Mary gave birth to a girl on March 3, 1791. Stephen allowed the child to have his name and she was baptized Mary Girard. Unfortunately little Mary was not strong enough to survive. She died in her mother’s arms on August 27, 1791.
There was some speculation as to who the father was but Girard made it clear that the child was not his. The birth provided Girard with his reason to seek a divorce from his wife. The State of Pennsylvania denied his request saying only a wife caught in flagrante delictu would give grounds for a divorce.
Mrs. Girard never recovered her sanity. For twenty-five years she lived in the hospital at 8th and Pine Streets in Philadelphia and died there in 1815. She was buried on the hospital grounds. Girard had been and continued to be a benefactor of the hospital which had sheltered his wife.
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