In Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s fiction



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In Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s fiction, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on her Diaries, Ulrich uses the combination of verbatim diary entries written by Martha Ballard, a midwife and mother to nine children, and her own input about the 18th century life. Martha Ballard’s diary entries include various aspects of her life such as her medical career, caring for her own family, and just her overall responsibilities as a midwife in the 18th century. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on her Diaries successfully argues that the role of colonial women in the 18th century was far more valuable than men’s role. Ulrich defends this argument throughout the chapters by emphasizing women’s responsibilities through Martha Ballard, her diary and Ulrich’s own thoughts.

Martha Ballard delivered 816 babies in the 77 years she was alive, traveled all over to tend to people’s various medical needs, prepared medicines and herbs for illnesses, and even readied bodies for burial once they passed. Ulrich analyzes these aspects of Ballard’s activities in her daily life in a broader sense. Not only is she making us aware of pivotal events in history but she also wants us to realize women’s roles in societies in the late 18th century. It was stereotypically thought that men and what they did for the communities was more important than what the women did. Ulrich makes it evident in her analysis that she disagrees with this widely accepted thought. In her diaries, Martha hints with her actions that she thinks local doctors are not necessary because she does more for her patients. At times, Martha would have to complete work that would normally take one month in two days. This way she is forced to have a lot of experience fast. Ulrich refers to many different men as unprepared and incompetent. Throughout the whole book, in Ulrich’s analysis, she highlights all of Martha’s successes. She glorifies all her medical achievements and the way she helped other people through delivering babies, taking care of ill-struck citizens, making medications or the way she dealt with death in her patients. She exemplifies how women not only do a man’s job but they do it better and more efficient.



Ulrich views colonial women in the 18th century having vital roles. Along with serving to medical situations, the mid-wife Martha Ballard also had many other responsibilities. She had to cook, clean, and take care of her family. To put it simply, she had to be a nurse and a mom. Ulrich shows this by explaining that Martha traveled long distances to care for various patients. She did housework and tended to the animals while her husband was in town working. Even if the weather was treacherous the jobs had to be done. Ulrich makes it apparent that women perform more laborious work than men by comparing the different jobs of Martha Ballard and what her husband did. Ulrich also states that Martha’s daughters actively helped out in the household chores. Close neighbors, also females, helped with teacher her daughters the ropes of the chores around the house such as: weaving, spinning, spooling, bleaching, etc. These actions took it from being nothing to cloth that could be used for just about anything. Even though men were more involved in economics, women still had a part in it, a very small part. Martha briefly touches on this subject by writing how she supported Ephraim and she had an errand ran for her. Martha also attended the funeral of General George Washington at the meetinghouse. Ulrich wants to make it clear to readers that women played a large role in the community and also had their own views about politics and the economy. Although the men in the community did not always acknowledge the women and their roles essential to the community, Ulrich defends their crucial role by highlighting female’s daily lives and what they did throughout their day.

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on her Diary, gives a historical insight on the roles of women in the late 18th century through Martha Ballard’s diary entries and Ulrich’s analysis of them. Martha’s diary entries are insightful to her actions and what she did throughout her everyday life. Ulrich convincingly argues that in the late 18th century, colonial women’s roles in their communities were more significant than men’s roles. Men participated in town jobs however women took on medical roles, cooking, cleaning, caring for their own families, and other different jobs women performed. Ulrich makes her argument evident by using factual history, Martha Ballard’s diary, her responsibilities throughout her everyday life, and Ulrich’s own views on colonial women in the 18th century.


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