Annelisa Christensen has been writing stories for herself since 8-9 years old, but it wasn't until she won an auction for a section of a 300 year-old book of trial records (just to hold a piece of book that old) that she was kick-started into writing The Popish Midwife, her debut novel, for publication
When she read the libel trial of Elizabeth Cellier, the seventeenth century Catholic Midwife defending herself, she immediately fell in love with the bold and sassy woman. Researching her, Christensen discovered Cellier was famous in three different fields:
(1) as part of The Popish Plot (a false plot created by Titus Oates against the Catholics) in which she had her own plot named after her: The Mealtub Plot.
(2) as an author of books and publications at time when it was frowned upon for women to do such things. She regularly visited Newgate Prison to distribute alms to the prisoners, and petitioned the king about awful conditions there. Her outspokenness and high profile as a Catholic (having acted as midwife to the Duke of York's first wife) was one of the reasons it was considered a priority to hush her up when she wrote a book about her experiences, entitled 'Malice Defeated'.
(3) as a well educated midwife, who investigated the death toll of mothers and babies throughout London during the birth process. Concerned with the inability of women to formally train in the art (they could only train as apprentices, not by books), she proposed to the king the building of the first midwife college to train women in the art, which would double-up as an organisation to rescue and raise foundlings in a humane and compassionate way.
Christensen found the three areas of study sometimes overlapped, but were more often written about separately. Put together, it was an extraordinary story, one she had to tell.
Researching Cellier, Christensen came across other stories of seventeenth century midwives she wants to share with the modern reader, so she is currently writing the second book in a series, simply called 'Seventeenth Century Midwives'.