HUDSON, Kitty [of Arnold]

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Photo:Kitty Hudson

Kitty Hudson

Artist's impression

The Pin Woman of Arnold

By R B Parish

In the late 1700s, Kitty Hudson became a local celebrity for a bizarre medical complaint. She was born in 1765 in Arnold and lived with her grandfather, a sexton of St. Mary’s Nottingham, called Mr. White from the age of six. It is at this age that her remarkable story begins for it is said that White’s servant would get her to sweep pins up in the pews after church, rewarding her with toffee. Bizarrely she would place the pins in her mouth for safe keeping. This practice appears to have had an unusual affect on her, for it is reported she could neither eat nor drink without pins in her mouth. Indeed she found sleeping impossible without them and often bring her own pins to induce her to sleep. This and probably the reward of toffee had a negative effect on her teeth to such an effect that they had degraded so much she only had her gums.

At the age of 18 years she reported a strange feeling of numbness of her limbs and sleeplessness. Subsequently, on the 4th of August 1783, she became a patient Nottingham General Hospital which had opened the previous year, indeed she was the 9th patient, reporting an inflammatory infection of her right arm. Examination revealed two needles in the skin above her wrist and some further up the arm. These were removed by pushing the points through and pulling out by forceps. Her case attracted considerable interest and amazement, and the details were reported in the Nottingham Date Book.

In Blackner’s (1815) History of the town, relates the case based on the institution reports which were published in the Medical and Physical Journal:

“October 11, 1783 – A very large darning needle was this day extracted from her right breast, seemingly buried within a part of that gland; thinks she feels another needle very deep seated under the gland in the middle of the breast; complained of great pain in the breast after the removal of the needle, which in about an hour afterwards became so excessive as to through her into convulsions.

November 1. – The convulsions have continued at periods till now; the needle still appearing to lie very deep within the breast; and about three days ago her jaw became locked; very weak and low; pulse small and weak; made an incision quite through the breast, and extracted a large needle which adhered to the tendinous fascia covering the pectoral muscle; afterwards brought the lips of th wound together with adhesive plaisters.

February 3, 1784 – Passed a pin yesterday by urine, which was not coated or particularly corroded; and this day with the same excretion, passed a needle.

5th – Passed another needle yesterday by urine; is faint and low.

12th – Brought up a needle yesterday by vomiting.

14th – Had a needle extracted from the breast.

26th – Two days ago the whole of the breast began to be inflamed, and the inflamation continues.

March 8th – Still complains of pain deep seated in her breast, which prevents her resting.

19th – The needle now in her breast to be extracted.

22nd – It passed into the thorax during the operation; part of the gland, which was schirrous, was removed.

June 26th – For several days has complained of great pain in her breast and describes it to be as if several pins were lodged in the mamma and pectoral muscle, and lying between the two ribs.

August 30th – The right mamma was extirpated this day, in the middle of which a needle was found closed impacted; an hemorrage taking place in the evening the dressings were removed, and a small artery was taken up; a pin was found in the dressings.

September 4. – Complained of pain; the dressings were partially removed, and another pin was sticking to them; four other pins were also discovered in the wound, which were removed without difficulty. One of the pins having lost the head, her perception was so accurate as to distinguish it before removing the dressings.

9th. – On removing the dressings two pins were found adhering to them.

11th. – Two more pins were found on the dressings this day, together with a plum-stone which she had swallowed two days ago.

The minutes (of which the above is a specimen, though by no means the most extraordinary part of the case) are voluminous, and will ever excite deep interest in the minds of the medical profession.”

Despite the considerable number of operations which removed a large number of pins, needles, carious bone mainly from her feet, legs and arms and the removal of her breasts she was discharged cured on the 12th June 1785.  She married a childhood sweet heart from Arnold, called Goddard six months after being discharged. Goddard himself was a patient at the hospital, where complaining about a condition in his head, lost an eye. He is said to said to her that he would marry her is she lost all her arms! She had nineteen children all of which were Christened but only a girl lived beyond infancy dying when nineteen. 

King and Russell (1913) state that un her later years, she carried the Arnold Post from the town to Nottingham back twice a day;  being described as tall stout and of masculine appearance. She is said to have worn:

“a small bonnet, a man's 'spencer' of drab cloth, a coarse woollen petticoat, worsted stockings, and strong shoes.”

Her husband died in 1814 and she remarried to a Henry Ludham of South Wingfield. Her step son, she had no further children, recalled as recorded in the Marlborough express of 1907 that:

“To the end of life pins and needles kept coming at intervals from her body. At first a black spot would appear and then it soon began to fester, the head next came in sight, and it was pulled out, and the wound soon healed. They came from all parts of her body, which, to use the words of her step-son, “was like a calendar, full of tiny holes.””


Anonymous, (1907) Kitty Hudson – the Human pin-cushion. Marlborough express. Volume XLI issue 156 4th July 1907

Blackner, J., (1815) History of Nottingham

King R.W.,and Russell. J., (1913) A history of Arnold

The author is researching folklore and customs any correspondence is welcome.

This page was added by R B Parish on 26/03/2013.
Comments about this page

There is an eating disorder called "pica" which is described as "having an appetite for non-nutritive substances".  I wonder if Kitty Hudson had this to some extent?

By Edith Beevers
On 06/03/2015

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