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, 1785-1812


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A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by 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 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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679733768
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/28/1991
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 115,459
Product dimensions: 5.13(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.96(d)

About the Author

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich was born in Sugar City, Idaho. She holds degrees from the University of New Hampshire, University of Utah, and Simmons College. As a MacArthur Fellow, Laurel worked on the PBS documentary based on A Midwife's Tale. She is immediate past president of the Mormon History Association.

Susan Ericksen is a three-time Audie Award-winning narrator who has recorded over 500 books. The winner of multiple awards, including twenty-plus AudioFile Earphones Awards for both fiction and nonfiction, Susan is a classically trained actress who excels at multiple narrative styles and accents.

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A Midwife's Tale (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
itsmemimi More than 1 year ago
I originally read this book in 1995 and it has stayed with me ever since. This book impacted me so much in regards to women's history. The research that the author did is incredible. As the reader, you must be patient with the details because it is all worth it in the end. This book will impact your every day life in modern America.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sometimes we get the idea that women really had it quite bad in Colonial and Early American Society. True, they had secondary status in the eyes of the law and the church. If one, however, reads the diary of Martha Ballard, as presented to us by Professor Ulrich, we catch a glimpse of the kind of empowerment some women could have in that time. Martha Ballard illustrated just how vital a women was to the existence of the American household during her lifetime. Taking away, for a moment, that she had a very successful midwifing practice, women contributed to the general welfare of the family, and even the economy, by their industriousness. Women's household chores, which seem so mundane to everyone today, actually allowed families to sustain themselves quite well. What a woman produced in the home, hopefully in excess, could then be turned around and traded within their community for other items which would provide for the family. Men, on the other hand, typically worked for wage labor and then came home to do what little they could during the rest of the day. Or, men farmed all day and did not have the time nor energy to do what the women of the household did. So, if the women then did not do their portion of their work, the family would be in serious jeopardy of depravation. Also, you will see how instrumental the children of a home were in the survival of the family and also how children were raised and trained for adulthood. However, when you couple into the mix Martha Ballard's mid-wifing practice, which as you will read was quite successful at its peak, Ballard was someone who could then exercise greater influence within the family because of her increased earning power. So, this book can provide a great insight into family life in Early American New England. And maybe, you will understand how women were empowered in other ways.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw the Movie on TV and than read the book.I found Martha Ballard's so called common life not so common. She was an extraordinary person who was thoughtful, consistent, and willing to sacrifice many sleepless nights and treks through inclement weather to assist women in childbirth. Not only that, she was a 'counselor' of sorts. I found reading Miss Thatcher's painstakingly researched account and interpretation of the diary an inspiration to readers as well as writers. As a 'housewife, mother, and teacher's aide' among other things, I can relate to Martha's way of life. The diary in itself is priceless.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812. It’s chock full of details of life, disease, injuries, and deaths as the pilgrims experienced them. The midwife monitored pregnancies, delivered babies, and cared for infants, toddlers, and children, many of whom died. Occasionally, a physician came from Boston to check on the scattered communities, most of them struggling every day to survive the hardships of pioneering, farming, and brutal weather. For the other 350 days a year, the midwife was a walking medical clinic. She was often called to care for sick and dying elders, or to patch together young and old adults who were horribly injured by dangerous equipment, or protesting farm animals. In times of epidemics, Ballard was the closest thing the community had to a doctor; she did her best, intervening with herbs, broths, medical skills, and prayers to stop epidemics. Her diary is fascinating; she kept meticulous records of the people and the results of their care. Submitted by: 10_TeePeez
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I could tell that a lot of work went into writing this book. I've done a lot of research on midwifery and this was the first detailed nonfiction book I could find from the 18th century. I found the material listed in the back of the book very helpful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Martha Ballard's Diary had been, apparently, discredited as useful until Ms. Ulrich exhaustively researched and presented this information. It felt at times a bit like taking medicine to read. I was amazed at how the female economy and education worked. It is a rare treatise and insight that has made me continue to think about what I read in this book, moreover to talk to others about the similarites in the behavior of people then and now. I can recommend it. Stick with it, a treasury of information unfolds.