Thursday, June 3, 2010

What I'm Reading-A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812

A few months ago I said I was going to talk books. Then I never did. (Except to rag on Shel Israel.) I've read a lot of books since then, Including the entire Southern Vampire Series by Charlaine Harris (lest you get the idea I'm always reading stuff like tonight's book, I'm not that lofty nor do I want you to think that I am.)

However, my latest obsession is a Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thacher Ulrich.

My Pioneer Deanna is doing a program at the museum this year on Midwifery in the 19th Century. While giving a talk about her program she mentioned the diary. Being that I'm in the midst of my own diary project, this really sparked my interest.

Ulrich uses the diary as a backdrop to talk about life in the 19th century. Her research, along with the actual diary entries make for fascinating reading . And she is so well researched. She worked on this project for 8 years!

Martha kept a diary for 25 years at a time when most women could not read or write. The glimpse that she gives into everyday life is  fascinating and rare. The way that Ulrich makes sense of it all and how she weaves the story of a a life in the  context of her vocation, women's familial roles and society at large is awe inspiring. If you are at all interested in 19th century life, midwifery, diaries, or just a good read, you must check this out.

I need to buy this book  (that is saying a lot!) For one thing I just had to renew it again. I can generally read any book in 3 weeks time. This one I'm savoring. In addition to that, it's not an easy read.  I don't mind working a little. It is so rare a book that makes me want to just slow down and really read everything.

On a website about the diary, book and, I just discovered, a film! (which I've ordered from the library)  I found an interview with Ulrich. Her words about writing about an ordinary person touched me.

When you decide to write about the life of an ordinary person, you start out with the premise that this person is not important because of some thing they did or who they were, but because understanding ordinary life has a value of its own.

I love this because it's true about Adam and Bess. It's true about my own blog (to me anyway) and others that I read, and even this whole Facebook thing that we all seem to be participating in these days.  

We're all just telling our story.

1 comment:

The Fine Art of Motherhood said...

I love the quote that you took out of the book -- I agree 100% with the quote, and your thoughts pertaining to Adam & Bess, blogs, etc. It's really such an interesting time that we are living in that we have such easy access to these things, and I think it is so important to give "voices" to these seemingly ordinary stories. They connect us in an amazing way -- in spite of how detached we could become with people depending so much on texting and e-mail and Facebook, etc -- all interactions through a keyboard -- not your typical human connection.