of advanced technology to include: computers, telephones, video teleconferencing equipment, cellular phones, beepers, and hospitals with the latest gadgets and gizmos. Our
technology is available only because of documented historical accounts. Our idea of work is having to get in our
vehicles and driving to our destination and sometimes sitting behind a desk all day to push paper; the worst any of us
suffers is a traffic jam here or there or worse, a construction site. Imagine life in the late eighteenth century. People
in this era had to deal with not only getting up at dawn to milk the cows, but toiling for hours on end with animals
that refused to budge. Individuals in this era did not have the luxury of using the technological tools we have today.
They could not pull out their cell phones if the mule decided to have a bad day or if they injured themselves on the
job. Achieving prosperity was not easily done!
during this century. The demands placed upon them, required that farmers and merchants work endlessly to provide
for their families. Through our education, we have learned that farmers worked and played very hard. We are not
however, taught in great detail the vital role a midwife played. Midwives had literally to be available at the drop of a
hat to attend a birth. If she was not there, it could cause potential problems for the mother-to-be and the newborn.
Martha Ballard, a woman that is not generally listed in history books, played a vital role in the latter part of the
eighteenth century. She is a woman of great strength and character who goes above the call of duty in her chosen
profession – that of a Midwife. Martha Ballard is a woman who has not only lived through the Revolution, but who
has kept a diary detailing the gains and losses that we made in political, economic and social transformations during
the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries (Ulrich, 32)!
Mrs. Ballard’s diary has been around for many years. Historians who know about the diary seldom know what to do
with it (Ulrich, 8). Some feel that her diary is boring and filled with too many details of domestic chores and
pastimes to be worthy of any great exploration (Baker, 14). “That Martha Ballard kept her diary is one small
miracle; that her descendants saved it is another (Ulrich, 346).” This statement speaks volumes. How often have we
come across documents our ancestors left behind and just threw them away? How often did we sit and examine
those documents or analyze their meaning? Speculating on why Ballard kept the diary and why her family saved it,
Ulrich highlights the documents’ usefulness for historians (Mullaney, 102). Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, an Associate
Professor of History (at the time of publication) at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, took the time to
evaluate Martha Ballard’s diary and connect the missing links in the role women played d!
uring the early years of colonial America. Her ardent studies led her to believe that the diary was more than just the
detailing of domestic duties it was describing a “lost substructure of eighteenth century life” – a decidedly female
one (Baker, 14).
Martha Ballard was more than a midwife. She was a historian, mortician, pharmacist, nurse, farmer, mother, and
wife (Ulrich 40). Perhaps it was a sense of history or a craving for stability, perhaps only a practical need to keep
birth records, that first motivated Martha to keep a diary. “Thee number of childn I have Extracted since I came to
Kennebeck I find by written account & other Calculations to be 405,” she wrote on December 31, 1791. (Ulrich,20)
Martha was fifty years old when she began documenting her experiences crossing the Kennebec River and events of
that era. She moved to this area at the tender of age nineteen when she married the loyal Tory and surveyor, Ephraim
Ballard. She shows us a history of the female economy and how women were regarded. When reading diaries, one
expects to find statements about the people the author meets, not in Martha’s diary.