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

A Midwife's Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
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Jan 03, 11

Read from December 01, 2010 to January 01, 2011

Excellent work of history, really compelling, lots of great detail. Ulrich uses Ballard's diary really well, but doesn't stop there; she works in all kinds of information gleaned from other primary sources to construct a marvelously detailed portrait of Augusta/Hallowell, Maine circa 1800. I love the choice of beginning each chapter with a week or two of diary entries reproduced in their entirety, and then following that by explaining what stories those entries tell, what clues they provide to Martha Ballard's world. This book not only tells a story, but also provides lessons in how to read an old diary like Ballard's, how to analyze it as a historian would. This is just really great. Plus there is murder, sex, dangerous trips through snowstorms, gangs of outlaws roaming the Maine frontier...this isn't just delivering babies and planting squash. I think lots of readers would appreciate this, especially anyone interested in Maine history, or women's history. Highly recommended.
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