Writing Assignment #1
In the story A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich I learned of about a woman named Martha Ballard. Reading about what she did is impressive, especially for her time period. If it weren’t for her diary we would not know about her many achievements and struggles that she overcame.
Martha Ballard was a woman born into the 1700s. A woman who claimed a few titles a healer, a midwife, an explorer, a diarist and a pioneer of social medicine. She was a woman during an age where women who were educated were uncommon. She was born and lived during the American Revolution where medical practices were starting to become the basis of the refined practices to where we are today. Martha Ballard found it was necessary to record her life for 27 years to shed insight on her life and the more she work she practiced as a midwife. Over 9000 child births were recorded in her diary and was presented for us today so we can see how much more complicated childbearing was in the 1700s. Martha Ballard was a hardworking woman, to be a midwife and help deliver as many children as she did is incredible. “ When it opened in 1785, she knew how to manufacture salves, syrups, pills, teas, and ointments, how to prepare an oil emulsion, how to poultice wounds, dress burns, treat sore throats, frostbite, measles, colic, lance an abscessed breast, reduce swelling, and relieve a toothache, as well as deliver babies (p.11).” In this sentence alone it already describes how intelligent this woman was for her time. She was skilled and mastered the art of medicine.
Back in the 1700s and 1800s social medicine was a common method when being use for childbirths. Social medicine was used by the midwives to help other women during labor. Most of the women in the neighborhood were present during the birth to observe and gradually lend a hand. Ballard believed herbal medicine was a key for a safe and stable childbirth. Prenatal and postnatal care is common and was a necessity for midwives, so Ballard would always have her hands free for a delivery. Also since midwives assisted with the child births other woman who were present handled birthing duties (seeing as how in that day and age it was seen as a social tradition for the network of female society). Male doctors were only called during an emergency such as birthing obstructions or when the lives of the mother and newborn were being threatened. However as time progressed male midwives numbers were on the rise as well. Martha was not alive during the age when male midwives overturned the woman, changing the "traditional" herbal practices with the genuine medicine.
Child birth seemed to bring the women of the town closer together because they were able to share the experience and knowledge of labor with one another, and the women were there to help the any way they could to make sure the mother and child were doing well after the pregnancy. With such a tight knit community you had to be there for your neighbors because if you helped them than later on in the future they would be more likely help you in return. The 18th century was a crucial time to get along with your neighbors because it benefitted the people to help each other out. It was easier to trade with someone that you trusted because you knew them well enough to know that they would give you a fair trade or at least be understanding to your situation. Martha Ballard traveled to help people because she was a kind person, when she later on moved her reputation was known and her neighbors respected her.
“The weddings in the Ballard family were distinctly unglamorous affairs, almost non-events (p.138)”. In the story historians saw the mid-eighteenth century as a time where the younger people sought freedom by choosing their own partners to marry but in reality there is little evidence to prove that to be true. From Martha’s diary we see that the…