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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



May 14: Dorothy Ballard marries Barnabas Lambard.

Alexander Gordon writes A Treatise on the Epidemic of Puerperal Fever of Aberdeen, in which the Scotsman observes that the fever is spread from patient to patient by birth attendants.


John Adams is elected the second U.S. president.

Edward Jenner develops a vaccine against smallpox using the less dangerous Cowpox virus.



Feb. 20: Hallowell divides in a dispute over whether to bridge the Kennebec at Fort Western or The Hook. North and Middle parishes soon incorporate as the town of Augusta, which later will become the capital of Maine. Nov. 21: The Kennebec Bridge at Fort Western is dedicated.

The Kennebec Medical Society is founded.



%Nov. 8: Lucy Ballard Towne dies. Martha Ballard nursed her daughter through a long illness with persistence and hope, but meets Lucy's death with acceptance and a prayer.

%The Alien and Sedition Acts pass Congress.



Nov. 26: Martha and Ephraim move to their new house on their son Jonathan's farm. The new house, about a mile uphill from the town center, turns out to be a difficult move for Martha. Walking to town and to the scattered houses of clients will become increasingly difficult for the aging woman.

George Washington dies.


%Thomas Jefferson is elected third U.S. president.

A National Census is taken; the U.S. population reaches 5.3 million.


Apr. 30: The U.S. purchases the Louisiana Territory from France for $15 million.



Feb. 5: Ephraim Jr. marries Mary Farwell. December 23: Jonathan and family move in with Martha, who is living alone while Ephraim is in jail. As tax collector, Ephraim is punished personally when he does not collect the full amount.

May: The Lewis & Clark expedition into the Louisiana Territory begins. Aaron Burr kills Alexander Hamilton in a pistol duel.



May 29: Ephraim is released from jail. Sep. 14, 1805 Jonathan and family move out of Martha and Ephraim's house.

Toussaint Charboneau and his wife Sacajawea join the Lewis & Clark expedition with their infant son.



July 9 Capt. James Purrington kills his wife, his six children and himself.


Congress outlaws slave importation. Jefferson bars all exports to Britain and France, causing New Englanders severe economic hardship.


Jefferson's embargo on American trade with Europe brings a slump to the Kennebec River economy. Martha Ballard's diary notes the celebration when the embargo is repealed.



The Malta War divides Maine. Settlers without land title from the Plymouth Proprietors contest attempts to remove them. Ephraim Ballard receives much of his work from the Plymouth Proprietors.

Dec. 25: Ephraim McDowell, a Kentucky surgeon, performs the first recorded gynecological surgery in the U.S., removing a 22 1/2-pound ovarian tumor from Jane Crawford.


A National Census is taken; the U.S. population reaches 7.2 million.


William Henry Harrison and his troops engage Tecumseh's army at the battle of Tippecanoe.



%Apr. 26: Martha Ballard midwives for the last time.

May 7: Martha Ballard writes the last entry in her diary.

Between May 7 and June 9 Martha Ballard dies and her daughter Dolly Lambard inherits her diary.

%James Madison is elected fourth U.S. President.

Shipping disputes lead the U.S. to declare war on Britain.

The New England Journal of Medicine is founded.


The Treaty of Ghent ends the War of 1812, but not before British troops sack Washington on August 24.


Andrew Jackson defeats a larger British force at New Orleans, two weeks after the peace treaty was signed.


%James Monroe is elected fifth U.S. president, beginning the "Era of Good Feeling."


Abigail Adams dies.


The Panic of 1819 strikes the U.S. economy.

Rene-Theophile-Hyacinthe Laennec, a French physician, invents the stethoscope, averting the need for a physician to place his ear on the breast of a female patient.



Jan. 7: Ephraim Ballard dies. Martha Moore and Ephraim Ballard leave a large extended family, many of whom stay in Maine. Descendants can still be found in the area today.


The first textile mills are built in Lowell, Massachusetts.

John Stearns espouses the use of ergot to induce labor, a practice the New York physician learned from a German midwife.


The Monroe Doctrine is incorporated into U.S. foreign policy.


%John Quincy Adams is elected sixth U.S. President.


A British physician suggests the moniker "obstetrician" to describe male specialists in childbirth, replacing such traditional terms as "man-midwife."


%Ether and chloroform are used in childbirth in America for the first time.


The Female Medical College of Philadelphia opens.



Sarah and Hannah Lambard inherit their grandmother's diary.



Clara Barton, grandniece of Martha Ballard, carries on the healing tradition by bringing medical supplies to Civil War soldiers and founding the American Red Cross.


Joseph Lister develops antiseptic surgery.



James North quotes passages from Martha Ballard in his History of Augusta.


Louis Pasteur identifies streptococcus as the cause of puerperal fever.



Mary Hobart graduates from The Women's Medical College of the New York Infirmary and inherits her great-great grandmother Martha Ballard's diary.

June 10: The Massachusetts Medical Society admits women.



Charles Everton Nash abridges Martha Ballard's diary for his history of Augusta.



Dr. Mary Hobart donates Martha's original diary to the Maine State Library.


Researchers discover the antibiotic properties of sulphonamides.


Penicillin isolated as an antibiotic.



Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's book Good Wives is published. Laurel Ulrich "discovers" Martha Ballard's diary.



A Midwife's Tale is published. Producer Laurie Kahn-Leavitt contacts Laurel Ulrich about making a film of the diary.



A Midwife's Tale wins the Pulitzer Prize.



A transcription of Martha Ballard's diary, by Robert and Cynthia McCausland, is published.



The film A Midwife's Tale is released.

1607 - 1753 | 1754 - 1794 | 1795 - 1997

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