Martha Ballard is my hero

Kaiulani Lee as Martha Ballard

Photo:

Martha Ballard is one of my heroes.

Ballard (1734/1735 – 1812) was an American midwife, healer, and diarist. She had nine children and was related to Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross.

She lived on the Massachusetts frontier in what is now Maine. She traveled by horse and canoe. Over 27 years, Ballard wrote in her diary with a quill pen. Many entries were about the food she raised and prepared.

In 1991, after eight years of research, historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich produced A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785–1812. Amazon writes:

“Drawing on the diaries of a midwife and healer in eighteenth-century Maine, this intimate history illuminates the medical practices, household economies, religious rivalries, and sexual mores of the New England frontier.”

I’m so glad it won a Pulitzer Prize, among many other awards. This book is available in paperback and is AWESOME!!! I first read it as a woman, a mother, a nurse and a doctor. Reading it again later, I realized it probably had a big impact on how I came to think about food and a woman’s role in food, family, community and work.

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is 300th Anniversary University Professor, Harvard University. She is a specialist in Early American Social History and Women’s History.

This book was a real labor of love by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. She ended her career as a distinguished history professor at Harvard, and president of the American Historical Association. By the way, Ulrich is the person who wrote the phrase: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Of her method, Wikipedia says:

“Ulrich’s innovative and widely influential approach to history has been described as a tribute to ‘the silent work of ordinary people’ — an approach that, in her words, aims to ‘show the interconnection between public events and private experience.”

Additional resources
The website DoHistory.org uses her diary as a case study for how to piece together the past from fragments.

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