A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812
Why this book?
A Midwife’s Tale is a beautiful recounting of life in the late 18th-early 19th c. Maine through the eyes of midwife Martha Ballard. I first read this book in graduate school, and was amazed at how effectively Laurel Thatcher Ulrich fleshed out medicine, midwifery, and everyday life on the Maine frontier, from Ballard’s diary. Each chapter begins with a passage from the diary, followed by an analysis by Ulrich. As a historian of women’s history, Ulrich artfully teases out the secrets and meanings behind the relatively mundane accounting of Ballard’s daily visits and chores. The reader learns about the emergence of an epidemic, a rape, a mass murder, alongside the incredible career of a midwife who safely delivered over 800 babies.