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  Who Was Martha Ballard?
an empty picture frame "Martha 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
above quote from Laurel Ulrich repeated in graphic


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:

link to Martha Ballard Timeline
Martha Ballard lived in a time of dramatic change. See how her life fit into the age of the American Revolution, the beginnings of modern medicine, and other important changes.

link to Maps and Pictures of Martha Ballard's World
Explore the geography of Martha's world and beyond through several beautifully rendered historic maps and pictures.

link to Martha Ballard Walking Tour
(PDF, requires free reader)

There are still 18th-century buildings standing in Hallowell, Maine, such as Old Fort Western. With the Martha Ballard Walking Tour you can take a virtual tour of the town, complete with maps and pictures, or print it to take a real walking tour.


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