A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale
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WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

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.

From Publishers Weekly

The diary of a midwife and herbalist reveals the prevalence of violence, crime and premarital sex in rural 18th-century New England. "Fleshing out this midwife''s bare entries with interpretive essays . . . Ulrich marvelously illuminates women''s status, the history of medicine and daily life in the early Republic," said PW . Illustrated.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"A truly talented historian unravels the fascinating life of a community that is so foreign, and yet so similar to our own." -- The New York Times Book Review

"Expertly executed and endlessly interesting. An offbeat gem of scholarship." -- Washington Post Book World

"A marvelously nuanced, subtle, and unillusioned portrayal of one woman''s life in early America. It has the makings of a classic." --Stephen Innes, University of Virginia

"It takes a historian of extraordinary persistence, skill, and empathy to recognized [Martha Ballard''s] diary as something of a buried treasure and to painstakingly unearth its gems. . . . Ulrich has recognized Ballard''s great spirit, and has given to us the gift of a life worth knowing." -- Philadelphia Inquirer

From the Publisher

"A major source through which we can vicariously experience the rural life of early New England." --Carl N. Degler, The New York Times Book Review

From the Inside Flap

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.

From the Back Cover

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.

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. She is 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University and past president of the American Historical Association. As a MacArthur Fellow, Ulrich worked on the PBS documentary based on her Pulitzer Prize-winning book  A Midwife''s Tale. Her work is also featured on an award-winning website called dohistory.org. She is immediate past president of the Mormon History Association. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 54.3 out of 5
402 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Ken Roberts
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The Daily Home Life of the Average Person of the Late 18th Century
Reviewed in the United States on August 17, 2019
Another reviewer, who gave this book only one star, stated that "anyone who gives this book more than two stars must be either a) a student working on a thesis about this topic; b) a relative of the author or c) nuts." Well, I fall into the third category - I suppose I... See more
Another reviewer, who gave this book only one star, stated that "anyone who gives this book more than two stars must be either a) a student working on a thesis about this topic; b) a relative of the author or c) nuts."
Well, I fall into the third category - I suppose I must be nuts. I not only enjoyed the diary entries, for I enjoy reading the words of the past by those who were there, but the well-researched analysis as well, for this is what draws you in. Ms. Ulrich not only researched the social history of the times, to help fill out and put flesh on the bones of Martha and of the era in which she lived, but she also studied her community and its people - her friends, family, and neighbors - so we can place all those mentioned in her diary as they fit in her life.
This takes a lot of doing.
Now I have also read other one-star reviews that stated how boring and tedious this book is. Of course it is! That is, to those who only want the frosting of history rather than the cake. This book pieces together daily life activities, and unless you are into this sort of thing, why would you even read such a book as this?
That being said, there are two minor issues I have, with the first being I wish all diary entries would have been included. It seems many are left out.
The other complaint I have is the tone sometimes in which Ulrich writes. For example, "The most experienced weavers, all of them women, extended the skills of their..."
The most experienced weavers were all women?
Excuse me, but most experienced occupational weavers in the towns and villages in the colonies and in England were men (including my 5th great grandfather). That''s not to take away from the women, who were excellent in their own right, but don''t take away from the men and the times in which they lived either.
But this is a minor blip in the whole story.
Opinions aside, Ulrich weaves a wonderful web of the past that draws the reader in. Tedious? Yes. And that''s what makes this book so well done. I love the so-called minor but rich details of the everyday lives depicted.
Is it boring?
Well, unless you want the scant information in most history books, I suppose it could be.
But if that''s what you enjoy, why would you even pursue a book such as this?
No, A Midwife''s Tale, even with the few complaints, is a true gem for social historians.
A true gem indeed.
24 people found this helpful
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LLS
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A dive into history as if you are living it.
Reviewed in the United States on January 10, 2018
Unquestionably the greatest dive into histoy I’ve ever read. If you want to have a first hand look at life as it really was in the 18th century you must read this. Personally, it amazed me to see how the author could take excerpts along with other historical documents to... See more
Unquestionably the greatest dive into histoy I’ve ever read. If you want to have a first hand look at life as it really was in the 18th century you must read this. Personally, it amazed me to see how the author could take excerpts along with other historical documents to create a full picture of economic life, social life, family life, etc
You feel like you go back in time and live this. I never understood just how hard it was to simply put food on the table for the average American. Life was about survival. It is so easily understood and felt in the book.
18 people found this helpful
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Brook Allen
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A valuable time-capsule
Reviewed in the United States on May 31, 2021
Wow. The level of research placed into this work is beyond admirable. The readers who have criticized it, claiming that "it''s boring", obviously have no respect for the quality of effort placed on deciphering historical documents. As an author writing a novel on... See more
Wow. The level of research placed into this work is beyond admirable. The readers who have criticized it, claiming that "it''s boring", obviously have no respect for the quality of effort placed on deciphering historical documents.

As an author writing a novel on the same period of Martha''s life, I found this book to be eye-opening, helpful, and compelling. I for one am most thankful that Ballard descendants placed enough value on Martha''s diary to keep it and pass it down through the generations. It''s a veritable gold-mine of information regarding life in the late 18th century and early 19th century.

This is not a fast read but an informative read, and Ulrich did a phenomenal job of translating it for those of us who wish to learn about Martha''s age. My hat is off to her!
3 people found this helpful
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IL Pam
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
If you love history, you will love this book.
Reviewed in the United States on December 13, 2016
I had expected to read a hard to read diary in old English with detailed midwife adventures. What I got was such a wonderful surprise! Yes, it is a diary with old English spellings but it was not hard to read. However, the best part is the explanations by the author. As... See more
I had expected to read a hard to read diary in old English with detailed midwife adventures. What I got was such a wonderful surprise! Yes, it is a diary with old English spellings but it was not hard to read. However, the best part is the explanations by the author. As she ties in another diary of that time long with so much research into every type of document left from that era, you come to know the people of the town and their lifestyles. This book is greAt and completely fascinating.
17 people found this helpful
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Skye
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Loved this book.
Reviewed in the United States on September 13, 2017
I loved this book so much! This is one of those fascinating histories that I couldn''t put down! I loved how real Martha was, and the author''s skill in keeping her real--her gifts, faith, and faults alike. I loved how the chapters were comprised of different themes and... See more
I loved this book so much! This is one of those fascinating histories that I couldn''t put down! I loved how real Martha was, and the author''s skill in keeping her real--her gifts, faith, and faults alike. I loved how the chapters were comprised of different themes and pulled apart the history into those themes so it was easy to follow through the history. This book is so skillfully written and exhaustively researched. It is such a masterpiece. What a wonderful book!
10 people found this helpful
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Lalibaba
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great book. Much needed type of history that reconstructs ...
Reviewed in the United States on March 26, 2017
Great book. Much needed type of history that reconstructs the importance of women''s role in society in a period when women did not write much. This historian pieces together evidence of what women''s lives were like from all sorts of historical evidence, beyond or between... See more
Great book. Much needed type of history that reconstructs the importance of women''s role in society in a period when women did not write much. This historian pieces together evidence of what women''s lives were like from all sorts of historical evidence, beyond or between the lines of traditional records. She really looks at the documents and "sees" what so many historians before her neglected or minimized.
10 people found this helpful
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P. Bleach
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Fascinating Book!
Reviewed in the United States on June 27, 2021
What a fascinating book!! I am loving reading about Martha Ballard and her life as mid-wife in the late 1700s. There is history and science and medicine and more woven into this book; not an easy chair read, but so worth it. I read several pages almost every night and have... See more
What a fascinating book!! I am loving reading about Martha Ballard and her life as mid-wife in the late 1700s. There is history and science and medicine and more woven into this book; not an easy chair read, but so worth it. I read several pages almost every night and have learned so much about life in the late 1700s and that people are people no matter the time period.
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Valerie Solon
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Read this eye opening book!
Reviewed in the United States on February 8, 2015
This is the most amazing book. It will make you realize that the history you learned in school was very different than what was really going on. It will open your eyes to the everyday hardships of Augusta Maine in the late 1700. It was a wonder that not only did people... See more
This is the most amazing book. It will make you realize that the history you learned in school was very different than what was really going on.
It will open your eyes to the everyday hardships of Augusta Maine in the late 1700. It was a wonder that not only did people survive, but that this midwife had the same infant survival rate that we have now. I highly recommend this book. The only comment is that around the fourth chapter, the author explains the economics of the time. It reads like someone''s thesis. Please stick it out or skip to the next chapter, it will be worth your while.
12 people found this helpful
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Top reviews from other countries

Amateur123
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Interesting and insightful- a one-of-a-kind book!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 6, 2013
I''m a history student and bought this for one of my medical history modules, but I enjoyed it far beyond just a scholarly case study. Ulrich has really gone above and beyond in picking apart the diary of Martha Ballard, an eighteenth century midwife and medicine woman in...See more
I''m a history student and bought this for one of my medical history modules, but I enjoyed it far beyond just a scholarly case study. Ulrich has really gone above and beyond in picking apart the diary of Martha Ballard, an eighteenth century midwife and medicine woman in her New England town. She says herself that the diary had previously been dismissed as just boring, repetitive women''s work but Ulrich shows that this is what''s so interesting about it. It shows the day-to-day life of women who would otherwise go down in history as just someone''s wife (or be left out of history altogether), and shows their important role in the house, the family and in society. Martha was a respected woman of medicine and provides an insight into the role of women at childbirth, as well as into a transitional period in medicine where science and male doctors were becoming more involved. The diary furthermore reveals more about early American medicine, beliefs and society in general. It can sometimes be difficult to plow through, as well as frustrating when Martha says so little about something juicy! But it is also a rare primary source on the female perspective from this period and I found myself getting very attached to Martha, so well worth a read.
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Javeron
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Slow Burn
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 12, 2014
I nearly abandoned this after the first few pages because it seemed so inconsequential, but then it sucked me in and I became completely immersed in the world of Martha Ballard. It is a book that will now stay with me - a reference point in recognising the significance of...See more
I nearly abandoned this after the first few pages because it seemed so inconsequential, but then it sucked me in and I became completely immersed in the world of Martha Ballard. It is a book that will now stay with me - a reference point in recognising the significance of quiet lives and how the detail illuminates the big themes of history. And I am in awe of the skill with which Ulrich has bound together the diary extracts with commentary that brings her subject to life and leaping off the page.
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Brenda M
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Not an easy read one for the professional
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 21, 2017
Enjoyed this book
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Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Martha Ballard was an AMAZING woman!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 2, 2017
We don''t know how lucky we are ! Martha Ballard was an AMAZING woman !
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Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An interesting interpretation of the past
Reviewed in Germany on April 24, 2015
I bought this book because I found the subject matter interesting. As I started reading I was shocked to find out that Martha Ballard was from my home town and many of the people and events mentioned in her diary were familiar to me. As a historian and I found the author''s...See more
I bought this book because I found the subject matter interesting. As I started reading I was shocked to find out that Martha Ballard was from my home town and many of the people and events mentioned in her diary were familiar to me. As a historian and I found the author''s research in combination with the diary very impressive. I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more of her work.
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A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale

A Midwife's Tale: The sale Life of Martha Ballard, Based 2021 on Her Diary, 1785-1812 sale