A Midwife's Tale Author:Laurel Thatcher Ulrich "A marvelous exposition of the diary of an ordinary woman who turns out to be quite extraordinary. The laconic record of her life, in Laurel Ulrich?s expert hands, becomes a guide not only too early medicine, but to debt, religion, family relations, the labor system, marriage and courtship, court practices, and above all the nature of female ide... more »ntity. All of this is made concrete and real in the life of one woman living on the Maine frontier? It is a tour de force of historical analysis and will be valued by students and general readers for years to come.? ?Richard Bushman, Colombia University
From Publishers Weekly: -The diary of a midwife and herbalist reveals the prevalence of violence, crime and premarital sex in rural 18th-century New England. "Fleshing out this midwife's bare entries with interpretive essays... Ulrich marvelously illuminates women's status, the history of medicine and daily life in the early Republic."
From Library Journal - This book is a model of social history at its best. An exegesis of Ballard's diary, it recounts the life and times of this obscure Maine housewife and midwife. Using passages from the diary as a starting point for each chapter division, Ulrich, a professor at the University of New Hampshire, demonstrates how the seemingly trivial details of Ballard's daily life reflect and relate to prominent themes in the history of the early republic: the role of women in the economic life of the community, the nature of marriage and sexual relations, the scope of medical knowledge and practice. Speculating on why Ballard kept the diary as well as why her family saved it, Ulrich highlights the document's usefulness for historians. -Marie Marmo Mullaney, Caldwell College, New Jersey
After raising nine children between 1756 and 1779, Martha Ballard spent the last twenty-seven years of her life as a midwife. Her work involved not only the delivery of 816 babies, but also responsibility for a spectrum of essential medical services in the town of Hallowell, Maine. Her diary entries are the resource and catalyst for Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's essays into the social history of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century New England. The diary itself is a straightforward daybook filled with notes on the weather, miscellaneous household tasks, regional politics and economics, births, deaths, marriages, illnesses, and other incidents that represent the concerns of a typical woman of Martha Ballard's time and place. Yet the indomitable personality of Martha Ballard herself is the guiding force behind this history. The editor writes, "it is in the very dailiness, the exhaustive repetitious dailiness, that the real power of Martha Ballard's book lies... For her, living was to be measured in doing. Nothing was trivial." Each chapter of A Midwife's Tale combines diary entries and editorial discussion; Martha Ballard describes how she gathers and administers herbal remedies, delivers babies, and prepares bodies for burial, and the editor places these tasks in a larger social context, exploring the often conflicting roles of male medical practitioners and local female healers. A Midwife's Tale, winner of the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction, is an innovative approach to history, a book to be studied and savored. -From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Kirsten Backstrom
"A major source through which we can vicariously experience the rural life of early New England." --Carl N. Degler, The New York Times Book Review« less