I couldn't put this book down. The actual diary of a Maine midwife from 1785-1812, full of daily hardships, chronicles of her times and observations. She fords streams, falls off of horses, walks through snow -- delivering 816 babies in 27 years, with a mortality rate lower than many of the physicians in the area. Meticulously researched by a historian who won the Pulitzer Prize. You view an early American village full of real people - good, bad, a serial killer who wipes out his own family, a rapist who gets away with his crime, due to his position, family squabbles. Wow. What a woman Martha Ballard was. If you love history, genealogy, and strong females, this book is for you. I loved it. Can you tell?
This book includes the actual diary entries of a midwife in late 1700's, including daily life, family life, how they paid their bills and what happens when they didn't. Laurel Ulrich, the author, provides a historian's perspective on these entries. The historian explains what is happening in this geography and society so you have perspective on the diary entries. The only book I have read over and over.
I loved this book. I may just order another one, as I loaned out my copy and never got it back.
My family was Maine, so I was especially interested in the lives of the early settlers there.
Martha's skill, her compassion, her pragmatism, her amazing work ethic was truly inspiring. On the other side of my family, my great-grandmother was a famous midwife in a small Idaho town, during the 1800's, so it was very special to read the real diary entries of this incredible woman.
The explanations and context by the author were perfect in helping us understand what was going on, while still letting Martha's own words speak for themselves.
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's book is a testament to how much can be gained by taking the time to look at women's history, often less well-preserved and overlooked. Basing her analysis on the spare writings of the diary of Martha Ballard, a midwife in Maine around the time of the American Revolution, Ulrich constructs a fascinating picture of the interdependency of early American households and communities, and the changes brought to women's lives from the American Revolution and the burgeoning field of medicine. Useful for both historians and laymen alike, both my mother and grandmother (not to mention me!) have loved it!
I found this interesting. The writer took a diary and made it come to life by bringing in historical records and resources. This gave not only perspective, but meaning to the diary. This is a genre I don't often read but I enjoyed it.
This book is about the life of Martha Ballard, a midwife during the 18th Century, as interpreted from her diary. It explores the life and times of women during that period. Very good read and very interesting as a commentary for the lifesyles of that time period.
Between 1785 and 1812 a midwife and healer named Martha Ballard kept a diary that recorded her arduous work (in 27 years she attended 816 births) as well as her domestic life in Hallowell, Maine. On the basis of that diary, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich gives an intimate and densely imagined portrait, not only of the industrious and reticent Martha Ballard but of her society - a portraint that sheds light on its medical practices, religious squabbles and sexual mores. At once lively and impeccably scholarly, this book is a triumph of history on a human scale.
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," said PW . Illustrated.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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 Coll., N.J.
This book is outstanding. It is also an award winner. I am writing a specific review for the audio. Listen to the book. It has the same information everyone else has written about it, but it makes it much easier to hear the words, as so much in her diary had a multitude of spelling variants. This is a beautifully written book about a very strong woman who lead a very forward life as a midwife and wrote about it during a time when women were not given much mind, or clout, nor the right to vote. This is fascinating, and I would love to give a copy to a few doctors I know, specifically women doctors, as this is a nod in their favor as to a woman's intuition and ability to care and heal on a much higher level. Feminist in a non-feminist way.