Martha Ballard

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Martha Ballard’s Diary and Laurel Ulrich’s interpretation of the diary help to derive insights concerning 18th century women’s lives, through frontier life, social change, early medicine and process of writing history. It was very rare for women of this time to keep a diary and through Martha's diary we can learn about her life as a healer and midwife, mother and wife. Ulrich says, “The problem is not that the diary is trivial but that it introduces more stories than can easily be recovered and absorbed.” Martha was a highly respected member of the community. This was because not only was she a midwife but she also had medical knowledge and she was a good listener.

In 1787 Scarlet fever hit Hallowell, the town Martha lived in, and Martha nursed the victims. In her Aug. 7 entry, Martha showed rare sympathy for her patients. This is probably because Ulrich’s interpretation of the diary helps to reveal that in the summer of 1769, three of her own children died from a similar disease. In 1785, The Dollar became the official U.S. currency, as Congress adopted a decimal monetary system. Martha Ballard and her neighbors, as well as the rest of the country, often lacked hard currency to carry on their daily trade. When no money was available, they resorted to credit and barter. Martha Ballard used XX in her record-keeping system. The XX in her left margin meant that a birth fee had been paid. And she kept her records in pounds, shillings, and pence. This shows that she was not paid every time she did her job and that she took the time to record the days she actually did but even with the lack of pay she continued helping the community as well as raising a family.

"About the Diary ." Martha Ballard's Diary Online. DoHistory. 27 Oct. 2008 .
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