When she turned 50, in 1785, Martha Ballard began writing a diary. She kept it faithfully for the next twenty-seven years, amassing nearly 10,000 entries. Without the diary, writes historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, "we would not even be certain she had been a midwife." But with the diary, we have a rich record of Martha's days in Hallowell, Maine, her work as a midwife and healer, and the social environment in which she lived.
Historians rely on documents like diaries, which describe individual experiences, to help them put together a picture of the past. The records we leave behind will help our descendents understand us and life in our times.
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