DoHistoryMartha Ballard's Diary Online site maptech helpabout sitesearch


  -- Laurel Thatcher Ulrich


Martha wrote in her diary nearly every day for 27 years for a total of almost 10,000 entries. For each of the topics below you can read a small subset of entries that relate to a particular story or theme in Martha's diary.


horrible tydings
horrible tydings
-- July 9, 1806

The Purrinton Murders
(17 entries from December 1805 - August 1806)
Capt. Purrinton axes his wife and six children and then slits his own throat. Surviving son James flees to neighbors Mr. Wyman and Jonathan Ballard.


Sally Peirce swore a child on my son
Sally Peirce Swore a Child on my son -- July 19, 1791

Premarital Pregnancy
(14 entries from 1788 - 1792)
Through the example of one of Martha Ballard's children, we see that premarital pregnancy is not frowned upon if the father supports the child or marries the mother.


Exceeding Dangerously ill
Exceeding Dangerously ill -- August 6, 1787

Scarlet Fever Epidemic
(88 entries from June 1787 - October 1787)
As a midwife called upon to treat her neighbors' illnesses, Martha struggles with a murderous scarlet fever epidemic in the summer of 1787.


I received 6/ as a reward
I receivd 6/ as reward -- June 27, 1793

Martha Ballard and Money
(25 entries from 1785 - 1812)
Plagued by a constant shortage of hard currency, Martha and her neighbors find ways to carry on their daily exchanges. The diary serves as Martha Ballard's account book.


Our young people are there to a Daunce
Our young people are there to a Daunce -- October 15, 1788

Courtship and Marriage
(68 entries from 1788 - 1803)
Couples court, marry, and finally go to housekeeping within the boundaries of community work and social ties.


a Desection performd
a Desection performd --
February 4, 1801

(85 entries from 1794 - 1808)
Female midwives like Martha Ballard do not perform "scientific" dissections, but male physicians invite them to observe, perhaps as colleagues or perhaps as keepers of respect and propriety.


We warpt a webb of 42 yds Linnin
We warpt a webb of 42 yds Linnin. -- May 24, 1787

Textile Production
(98 entries from 1786 - 1808)
The Ballard family teams up in a smooth-running spinning and weaving operation so that the girls can learn a skill and earn income at home.


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