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Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s Pulitzer Prize-winning A Midwife’s Tale beautifully portrays the life of midwife and healer Martha Ballard in Hallowell, Maine, based on the diary she kept between 1785 and 1812. 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. This triumph of history on a human scale is one of our favorite books. (Interesting notes: Among Martha Ballard’s ancestors were Ballards of Andover, MA. Brothers Joseph and John Ballard played crucial roles in the Salem witch trials. Martha Ballard’s grandniece was Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross.) (paperback, 1990)
“Expertly executed and endlessly interesting. [An] offbeat gem of scholarship.” –Washington Post Book World
“It [takes] a historian of extraordinary persistence, skill, and empathy to recognize [Martha Ballard’s] diary as something of a buried treasure and to painstakingly unearth its gems…” –Philadelphia Inquirer