Skip to main content

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

Posted in

The amount of work put into this book is awe-inspiring. Ulrich has taken an extremely dry and boring diary of a so-ordinary-it-hurts early American midwife and with exacting cataloging and thorough additional research, come up with a wonderful story of a life. She's waded through the inconsistent spelling and extremely terse style and made absolutely mind-boggling numbers of connections here.

Good history provides analysis in addition to the hard work, and this book is no slouch there, either. The original diary is filled with entries like "Weather clear. I bakt bread. Calld 3 pm to Mrs. Brixton who was in travil and tarryd all nigt." This is not a document that easily gives up its secrets. No, Ulrich manages to find the connections, and make astute observations about the role of women and family in the life of the ordinary New England settler. By looking at these accounts, Ulrich paints a convincing picture of the economics of the area, the social structures, down even to the minutest detail. It's really quite incredible.

This post was crossposted from Goodreads. You can find the original at

star star star star star star star no star no star no star