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A Midwife's Tale

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A Midwife's Tale Timeline

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Martha Ballard icon

Martha Ballard

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Science and Health

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U.S. History

1607 - 1753 | 1754 - 1794 | 1795 - 1997


English colonists first attempt (unsuccessfully) to settle Maine, at Fort George on the Kennebec River. Other English colonists found Jamestown, Virginia.


%Capt. John Smith explores and maps the northern New England coast. Smith will publish his Description of New England two years later and become an enthusiastic promoter of settlement.


Plymouth Colony is founded by the Massachusetts Bay Company.


A fur-trading post is established at Cushnoc (now Augusta). Maine's first settlers, fur traders, act as go-betweens with the American Indians. In New France, to the north, traders and missionaries are the first to settle.



William Learned, Martha Ballard's ancestor, becomes a freeman in Charleston, Massachusetts.


%April 12: Galileo Galilei stands trial for heresy after claiming that the earth revolves around the sun. Galileo recants his heretical theory.



William Ballard, Ephraim Ballard's ancestor, crosses the Atlantic on the ship Mary & John. Part of the Puritan Great Migration, William will settle in Lynn.

%John Winthrop writes that smallpox has killed off the local native American population and made the way clear for European settlement.


Harvard College, the first in British North America, is founded. Martha Moore Ballard's brother will later attend the theological university.



Jacob Moore (Martha's ancestor) is born in Sudbury, Massachusetts.


Fourteen women are hanged in Massachusetts and Connecticut after accusations of witchcraft.


William Harvey publishes De Generatione Animalium, identifying the female egg's role in conception.


Nicholas Culpeper publishes The English Physitian, or an Astro-Physical Discourse of the Vulgar Herbs of This Nation.


Thomas Syndenham names his tincture of opium and alcohol "laudanum," from the Latin for praise.


June 1: Mary Dyer, an English Quaker, is hanged on the Boston Common for her religious heterodoxy.


Louis XIV of France chooses a male physician -- not a midwife -- to attend the delivery of his mistress's child.


The Great Plague decimates London.


Massachusetts Bay Colony declares its authority and protection over Maine. Maine will remain a territory of Massachusetts throughout Martha Ballard's lifetime. Ephraim Ballard will live to see Maine separate from Massachusetts and become a state.


Jane Sharp publishes the first English treatise on midwifery, in which she attacks man-midwives.



Mary Collins (Martha's paternal grandmother) is born in Middletown, Connecticut.

King Philip's War erupts in New England as Chief Metacum leads the Narragansett Indians in a rebellion against an annual tribute demanded by the colonial government.


British soldiers massacre the Narragansett at their winter home in Rhode Island.


August: King Philip's War ends when Colonial militiamen kill Chief Metacum in battle and take his head to Plymouth, where it will be displayed for the next 20 years.


%Sir Isaac Newton publishes his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.


John Locke publishes Two Treatises of Government. Maine squatters will use Locke's arguments to challenge the Plymouth proprietors for whom Ephraim Ballard worked.

Dutchman Zacharias Janssen invents the microscope.


Witch trials claim twenty lives in Salem, Massachusetts.



Hannah Kidder (Ephraim's mother) is born in Medford, Massachusetts.


Slave trading is legalized by the British Parliament, beginning the "triangle of trade" from New England to Africa to the Caribbean Islands and back to New England.


Queen Anne's War (called the War of Spanish Succession in Europe) begins.



Elijah Moore (Martha's father) is born in Sudbury, Massachusetts.


Sarah Campbell Knight travels from Boston to New York, becoming the first white woman known to have made the journey alone.


The Treaty of Utrecht ends Queens Anne's War.



Dorothy Learned (Martha's mother) is born in Sudbury, Massachusetts.


New York City requires midwives to be licensed.


England's Lady Mary Montagu introduces English physicians to smallpox inoculation, which she observed being performed by old women in Constantinople.



Jonathan Ballard and Hannah Kidder (Ephraim's parents) marry in Billerica, Massachusetts. Richard Moore and Ebenezer Learned (Martha's grandfathers) are Oxford selectmen.


John Maubray publishes The Female Physician, in which he notes a trend toward physician-assisted childbirth, and away from midwifery. The English physician criticizes his colleagues for relying too heavily on instruments.



May 17: Ephraim Ballard is born in Billerica, Massachusetts.

ca. 1726


Jonathan and Hannah Ballard move their family to Oxford, Massachusetts.


Benjamin Franklin begins publication of Poor Richard's Almanack. Almanacs are common reading material in the colonies and early republic. The form of Martha Ballard's diary suggests that she may have used the dated page layout of an almanac at first.


The Chamberlen forceps' design is published, although it probably was sold secretly by the Chamberlens before that.


%A scarlet fever epidemic sweeps across New England.



Feb. 20: Martha Moore is born in Oxford, Massachusetts.


The Cato Conspiracy -- the British Colonies' first slave revolt -- takes the lives of 44 blacks and 30 whites in South Carolina.


Fielding Ould, an Irish physician, publishes the first description of an episiotomy.


King George's War -- an offshoot of the War of Austrian Succession -- breaks out between France and Britain in the Caribbean and in North America.


William Hunter, a Scottish physician, is appointed surgeon-midwife to the British Lying-in Hospital. Hunter will consult in the delivery of Queen Charlotte, although a midwife will perform the actual delivery.


William Smellie publishes his Treatise on Midwifery in London. Most births in Europe and British America are still in the hands of female midwives.


James Lind, an Englishman, publishes his findings that lemons and oranges cure scurvy, an idea that was known previously but not believed totally.

1607 - 1753 | 1754 - 1794 | 1795 - 1997

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