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A Midwife's Tale

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Martha Ballard's Diary

In 1785 Martha Ballard began the diary that she would keep for the next 27 years, until her death. At a time when fewer than half the women in America were literate, Ballard faithfully recorded the weather, her daily household tasks, her midwifery duties (she delivered close to a thousand babies), her medical practice and countless incidents that reveal the turmoil of a new nation -- dizzying social change, intense religious conflict, economic boom and bust -- as well as the grim realities of disease, domestic violence, and debtor's prison.

Follow these links to photographs of Martha Ballard's diary. You can view the diary in its entirety at DoHistory, ( a site dedicated to the story of Martha Ballard and the process of exploring history through the use of primary sources.


A severe storm
Birth of Eben Hewins Dag, receivd 8/. A Severe Storm of rain. I was Calld at 1 h PM from mrs Husseys by Eben Hewen. Crosst the river in their Boat...


What Mrs. Foster told Martha
Clear. our famely all went to meeting but my self & Eph, he is Broak out with rash. Sister Bartons Son is much better...


A birth recorded sideways
My testemony was that mrs Foster on the 19 of augus Complaind to me that Shee had Shee had [sic] receivd great abuses from people unknown to her, Such as throwing Stones at her house...

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