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A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha…

A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary,… (1990)

by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Martha Ballard (Author)

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An intimate look at the life of a 18th-century midwife, healer, housewife, and mother in rural Maine. Drawing on the seemingly bare diary entries of Martha Ballard, Ulrich paints an honest and vivid picture of the work of women throughout a period in history when they were considered unremarkable and their influence was often overlooked. ( )
  GennaC | May 9, 2017 |
Excellent use of a rare diary of a woman, a self-described "gadder" — a woman who leaves home frequently to interact with neighbors — and a woman whose medical work impinged on the very separate world of men. The writing is fluid and fascinating, neither pedantic nor glib; Ms. Ulrich offers questions where questions are all we can have and suggests possibilities where she has support from within Ballard's diary or from other sources. Her footnotes are great, and support rather than interfere with the text if you're a reader who prefers to read the entire chapter/ book and then look at attributions, explanations, etc. I really enjoyed this book, and learned a lot from it. ( )
  NatalieSW | Aug 8, 2016 |
Generally pretty interesting information about a woman's life in the late 1700s-early 1800s based on her diary. My only criticism is that I think the author sometimes treated her interpretations of what was going on as facts. Nevertheless, it's amazing to see how demanding life was for Martha Ballard as a midwife in Maine, and it was also fascinating to learn more about the flow of the community -- so much has changed in the time since. There was much more visiting back and forth than I would have imagined. Also, notions that premarital sex was rare to nonexistent are wrong, but also our image that only women were punished for out of wedlock births. In fact, the community encouraged the women to name the fathers and then demanded that the fathers marry the women and be responsible for the children. Finally, very familiar familial conflicts were normal then as well as now -- children not living up to their parents' expectations, jealously or bickering between people, and even mass murder (a father killed his family and then himself). ( )
  creynolds | Apr 27, 2015 |
This is an amazing book that I highly recommend. It's non-fiction based on a diary written by a midwife living in Maine at the end of the 18th century. Thatcher starts each chapter with 2-4 weeks of diary entries. These are generally 1-4 sentences describing the weather, how she felt, what she did (spun wool, planted beans, etc.), and if she delivered any babies she'd account for how she got there, how the mother and child did, and when she got paid. It is 27 years of a daily account of her life which can sound rather mundane, but Thatcher pulls an amazing amount of information out of this diary. She covers everything: midwife practices, the shift from midwives to doctors, a history of the settlement of Maine, a local murder, a local rape and the court proceedings that followed, debtors prisons, family relations, and the role of women in the local economy. As a midwife, Martha Ballard presided over more than 800 deliveries, only losing one mother. While Thatcher explores all of these topics through Martha's words, she never loses Martha's voice. This is so worth reading! ( )
  japaul22 | Aug 10, 2014 |
Based on a midwife's diary, this is history the way it should be. Accessible and well-researched. I can understand why this book won a Pulitzer.

However, if this were [b:The Princess Bride|21787|The Princess Bride |William Goldman|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327903636s/21787.jpg|992628], it would be the S. Morgenstern version. In one chapter someone gives birth, it is described in the author's words, later in the chapter, the author quotes the actual diary entry. A woman dies and in the next chapter, she apparently dies again. It's the same women but, to make a different point, the author repeats the diary entry. Once is enough. ( )
  R0BIN | Apr 27, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laurel Thatcher Ulrichprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ballard, MarthaAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Eight months of the year Hallowell, Maine, was a seaport.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679733760, Paperback)

Drawing on the diaries of a midwife and healer in eighteenth-century Maine, this intimate history illuminates the medical practices, household economies, religious rivalries, and sexual mores of the New England frontier.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:52 -0400)

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Presents the life of Martha Ballard, a midwife in Maine during the eighteenth century, by drawing on the detailed diary she kept for twenty-seven years of her life.

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