A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812
A Midwife's Tale The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary 17851812 Author:Laurel Thatcher Ulrich Drawing on the diaries of one woman in eighteenth-century Maine, this intimate history illuminates the medical practices, household economies, religious rivalries, and sexual mores of the New England frontier. Between 1785 and 1812, a midwife and healer named Martha Ballard kept a diary that recorded her arduous work (in twenty-seven years sh... more »e attended 816 births) as well as her domestic life in Hallowell, Maine. On the basis of that diary, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich gives us an intimate and densely imagined portrait, not only of the industrious and reticent Martha Ballard but of her society. At once lively and impeccably scholarly, A Midwife's Tale is a triumph of history on a human scale.« less
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?
Carol H. reviewed A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 on
Helpful Score: 6
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!
Ulrich expands upon and explains the diary entries made by Maine midwife Martha Ballard between 1785 and 1812. The underlying theme is the importance of trade among and by women, in support and in counterpoint to that of men, but the whole thing just gets very tedious very quickly. Did not finish.
A marvelous exposition of the diary of an ordinary woman from Augusta, Maine, who turns out to be quite extraordinary. The laconic record of her life, becomes a guide not only to early medicine and housekeeping, but to debt, religion, family relations, the labor system, marriage and courtship, court practices, and above all the nature of female identity. All of this is made concrete and real in the life of one woman living on the Maine frontierl...It is a tour de force of historical analysis and will be valued by students and general readers for years to come.-Richard Bushman, Columbia University.