A Midwife's Tale is the biography of midwife Martha Ballard during the late 1700's. Ballard's journal is a primary source quoted in the text, however the author's own narrative is included throughout.
Martha Ballard's diary begins in August 1787. Ballard lived in Hollowell, Maine. Most of her journal entries are fewer than 5 lines, however she was a very consistent writer. She wrote nearly every day until her death in 1812 at age 77. She recorded assisting in 814 births from 1785 to 1812. None of these women died in her care during childbirth. Some of her other journal entries talked about daily activities and visitors, some described the weather, thers were grocery lists, and some discussed town gossip. The diary also includes a finance log detailing earnings and expenditures.
Martha Ballard was more than just a midwife, making house calls and helping deliver babies. She was a wife, mother, pioneer, a keeper of vital records, a chronicler of medical history, and a hero. Her profession as a midwife also meant she was a nurse, physician, mortician, and pharmacist. She writes about specific crops and seeds. At the end of the book is a list of local plants and “unusual” ingredients used for medicinal purposes.
This report prepared by Jeanne Milligan