Moore was born in 1735 in the small central
Massachusetts town of Oxford, but the
real story of her life begins in Maine with the diary she kept from age
fifty. Without the diary her biography would be little more than a succession
of dates. Her birth in 1735. Her marriage to Ephraim Ballard in 1754. The
births of their nine children in 1756, 1758, 1761, 1763, 1765, 1767, 1769,
1772, 1779, and the deaths of three of them in 1769. Her own death in 1812.
"The notice of Martha's death in a local paper summed up her life in just one sentence: "Died in Augusta, Mrs. Martha, consort of Mr. Ephraim Ballard, aged 77 years." Without the diary we would know nothing of her life after the last of her children was born, nothing of the 816 deliveries she performed between 1785 and 1812. We would not even be certain she had been a midwife."
|--from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's A Midwife's Tale|
Through Martha's diary, however, we can learn a great deal about her life as a healer and midwife, mother and wife. We come to realize that Martha Ballard was a respected member of the community, depended upon by the inhabitants of Hallowell, Maine from 1785 until her death in 1812. Through her diary, we can also glimpse the lives of the town's other inhabitants--the ordinary people who are normally invisible to us when we look back into the past. Her diary enriches, deepens, and complicates our understanding of everyday life in early America.
Here are three things to help you begin to understand Martha's life in relation to history and geography: