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

I was searching for books to read about Maine (an upcoming vacation destination), and it caught my attention because of its uniqueness. A book based on the diary of a midwife shortly after the American Revolution. Also, it became a movie – www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/mwt/.

I am glad I found it at the remarkable King Bookstore in Detroit (www.kingbooksdetroit.com/). I found it remarkably engaging and was impressed by Ulrich’s research and analysis. She presents 2 dozen or so diary entries at the start of each chapter. They are short and feature what we might call inventive spelling. From this extract of the diary (as well as other sources), she narrates a key late 18th / early 19th century theme – the role of women, the economy, etc.. She had to have been remarkably tenacious to undercover the details from which her themes emerge. In doing so, she manages to paint a compelling and vivid picture of Maine shortly after the Revolution.

I’m sure it’s a kind of history – social, cultural, something. But her writing, along with the maps, gave me a thoughtful picture of the evolution of one remarkable woman, her family, and her town during the 27 years of her diary.


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