Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Midwife's Tale

I'm on break this week, but I'm hoping to get a jump on next week's readings.

One of the Tuesday seminar books is A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.

This is one of my all-time favorite books. Ulrich combines excellent writing, detailed research, and sensitive interpretation in all of her writing. Her earlier work, Good Wives, is one of the most useful and level-headed books I have read, and her later work, The Age of Homespun, is also a favorite. A Midwife's Tale is so stunning because the source material is so intimidating, but Ulrich manages to read it with incredible nuance and insight.

Here is the passage from page 123:
July 8, 1790. "At ditto. Attended etc etc." Martha was present, Though she gave no details when the jury heard the case of Thomas Meloney, charged with cohabiting with his sister Joannah and murdering an infant born of her body. Their father deposed that the two were indeed brother and sister, and that "they have Lived in one house together Ever Since Johannah had her first Child," that she now had three children, but that "I don't know who was the father of them children." The old man signed his testimony with a mark.

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