Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Synopsis: 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 her 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 - a portrait that sheds light on its medical practices, religious squabbles and sexual mores. At once lively and impeccably scholarly, A Midwife's Tale is a triumph of history on a human scale. (from the back of the book)

Review: Martha Ballard wrote a concise, terse diary of her life, giving only scraps of information. But by comparing the diary to other records, Ulrich is able to piece together Ballard's life. Ballard's life is not extraordinary by it's world-changing deed, but by its simplicity, its common and cyclical nature, its ordinariness. Ulrich can be a little dry and dense at times, and she jumps from subject to subject, but over all, her writing is interesting. She does well with the distressing lack of information from Ballard about her life. I wish Martha had written more! I highly recommend for who is interesting in Women during Early American History.

Bookmarks: 7.5 of 10

Awards: The 1991 Pulitzer Prize, the Bancroft Prize, the John S. Dunning Prize, the Joan Kelly Memorial Prize in Women's History, the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize, the Society for Historians of the Early Republic Book Prize, the William Henry Welch Medal of the American Association for the History of Medicine, and the New England Historical Association Award

Format: Large Paperback
ISBN: 0-679-73376-0
Pages: 444

Date Finished: 10-13-2013

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