Jen'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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Mar 24, 09

bookshelves: 2009
Recommended for: those who like history
Read in March, 2009, read count: 1

This was a very interesting read. The format of the book featured sections of Martha Ballard's journal and then the author's interpretations and extrapolations of the topics in the journal. Each chapter was a certain month, year, the next chapter would be the next calender month but a different year (for instance chapter 1: August 1787, Chapter 2: September 1788). Much of this book read like a history textbook, a lot of dates and names. She referenced other diaries and records from the area and time to put Martha's journal into a broader perspective of the time and the womanly slant on the events versus the predominantly male articles of the time.

While the book is called a midwife's tale there is no real information on what midwives did exactly, just the notations of the births and sheer number of patients plus interactions with doctors. There were a lot of numbers, Martha's death rate was VERY low for the time signifying she knew what she was doing. One of things I found interesting was that unwed mother's were questioned at the height of their labor to name the father. This was all that was required to establish paternity, as they figured a woman in labor wouldn't have the mental capacity to lie AND survive labor.

The book was a good read on one of the higher education levels a woman could obtain at the time. It showed details of how the women affairs in town were conducted and how her interactions changed as she aged. There were family quarrels, rape charges, mass murders, all dealt with in her journal. I learned quite a bit.
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Reading Progress

03/21/2009 page 90
20.27% "The format of this book is kinda cool, each chapter opens with a section of original diary and then the author sums up the rest of that year"
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