Men Have Been Attacking Women’s Looks When They Feel Threatened For Centuries

The rise and fall of Sarah Mapp, the famous female bonesetter.

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She couldn’t have been petite, delicate, or demure.

In fact, in caricatures circulated of her, she was as compact as a muscled toad — and she had to have been to be a "bonesetter," what we would view today as an 18th-century orthopedist. Her other job title, more beautiful, was "Shape-Mistress."

She was Sarah Wallin (and later, "Crazy Sally" or "Cracked Sally" or Mrs. Mapp). Her story is sadly not a new one. It’s even a contemporary one. She was a woman who threatened men, and because of this, they made sure to attack her looks.


Bonesetters were usually rural tradesmen, trained on how to reset broken bones and dislocated joints. It was an extremely physical job that required a good bit of strength as well as anatomical know-how. To set a broken bone or reduce a dislocation correctly, someone has to be able to feel where the bone shouldn’t be and guide it, sometimes brutally, back to where it should be.


Wallin had to be strong, and her arms definitely so. She couldn’t have been a "delicate" or "feminine" woman and also wrenched grown men’s limbs and joints back into place.

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Having learned how to be a bonesetter from her father, she left her country town in Wiltshire, England, and began traveling, setting the bones of folks as she went.

She later drew the notice of the wealthy in the resort town of Epsom. Epsom was known for its horse-racing culture (and its frequently injured horse riders), and she made a name for herself as being both talented and a curiosity.

She was a woman in a field supposedly not physically possible for a woman to be in.


Her name (she’d begun calling herself "Cracked Sally") and reputation drew her into London as well, and she began traveling there twice a week from Epsom in a fancy four-horse carriage.

In 1736, at the height of her career, she was being paid a handsome retainer of 100 guineas a year by Epsom just to continue doing business there (a single Guinea coin was 8.3 grams of 22-carat gold, which meant her yearly retainer would be, in today’s market value, about $47,991).

On top of her retainer, she was making money from clients, who in some reports, were paying her upwards of 20 guineas a day (which would be around $9,598 today).

It was men that caused her downfall of course.


First, it was a husband.

Hill Mapp, a lowly footman, likely making just 8 guineas a year or $3000 in today’s market value, absconded with 100 of her guineas a week of their nuptials.

Then the medical community (all men, of course) began attacking her in the press.

First, it was reports from supposed former clients of hers:

"…this is therefore to give notice, that any person afflicted with lameness … will be welcome to see the dressing of my leg, which was sound before the operation, and they will then be able to judge of the performance, and to whom I owe my present unhappy confinement to my bed and chair."

When the possibly falsified reports of Mapp’s "former clients" (there was no such thing as "journalistic integrity" in the 18th century) didn’t immediately ruin her business, they did a double-pronged attack. They went for her looks as well as calling her a "quack."


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In this caricature, she’s shown in the middle of the three at the top. She looks like an ogre carrying a bone for a club. She’s depicted as sandwiched between two other well-known figures at the time, John Taylor and Dr. Joshua Ward, yet the artist doesn’t draw them as clownishly or vulgarly.

Her looks didn’t have anything to do with her ability to perform her job, but it was the kind of low blow the medical community hoped would make her shut up and go away. She wasn’t afforded the decency or respect to be criticized for whether she was good at bonesetting. Instead, they attacked her femininity, often calling her "masculine" or "manly."

The title of the caricature is "The Company of Undertakers," implying individuals who seek out these people are consulting on their own deaths. It also became known as the "Consultation of Quacks."


Being called a "quack," especially in a public newspaper, was a strong condemnation. The term implied incompetence as well as fraud.

It’s important to note that, in the 18th century, medical doctors with university degrees weren’t much different than quacks themselves. This was still the time when doctors would "let the blood" of patients for any ailments, including cancer, acne, heartbreak, or insanity. Doctors had no knowledge of the impact of hygiene on wounds, and they often made recommendations that were more harmful than helpful.

In The London Tradesman by Robert Campbell, he wrote, "[a doctor] has a License to kill as many as trust him with their Health."

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While the attacks on "Crazy Sally" seemed to come from a place of "protecting the community," it’s more likely she was a threat to these doctor’s pocketbooks.

If she was making upwards of 20 guineas a day (which again would be around $9,598 today), that’s money that wasn’t making it into the doctors’ pockets. There was no such thing as health insurance in 18th-century England, and doctors were usually only seen by the wealthy.

The attacks eventually worked, and/or "Cracked Sally" may have helped them along herself. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to walk down the street, knowing other people see you as a disgusting ogre, a fake, a fraud.


It’d be hard for anyone to stand up against such public attacks against your looks and your character. Maybe not surprisingly, "Cracked Sally" turned to drinking and became brash and rude. Sir Percivall Pott, a doctor at the time, publicly called her "an immoral drunken female savage."

She lost her cushy Epsom retainer as well as most of her wealthy clients, and in a year, she was dead, "so miserably poor that the parish was obliged to bury her."

Sarah Wallin's (or Mapp’s) story is a sad one, but also … not a new one. Her story shows the sadly centuries-long tactic of arrogant, awful men resorting to attacking a woman’s looks when they’re threatened by them.

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Tara Blair Ball is a certified relationship coach and podcast co-host for the show, Breaking Free from Narcissistic Abuse. She’s also the author of three books: Grateful in Love, A Couple’s Goals Journal, and Reclaim & Recover: Heal from Toxic Relationships