Martha Moore Ballard

Oxford, Worcester County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 9 Jun 1812 (aged 77)
Augusta, Kennebec County, Maine, USA
Burial Body lost or destroyed
Memorial ID 173133854 · View Source
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Midwife, Diarist and Healer. She kept a detailed diary of her activities for the last 27 years (1785-1812) of her life, providing more than 1400 pages of primary documentation. This unique record of a woman’s life in colonial Maine was analyzed by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in the book A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785–1812, published in 1990. In 1991, A Midwife's Tale received the Pulitzer Prize, the Bancroft Prize, the John H. Dunning Prize, the Joan Kelly Memorial Prize in Women's History, the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians Book Prize, the Society for Historians of the Early Republic Book Prize, the William Henry Welch Medal of the American Association for the History of Medicine, and the New England Historical Association Award. Robert R. McCausland and Cynthia MacAlman McCausland spent ten years producing a complete verbatim transcription of the diary, which is now freely available online as well as for purchase in hard-copy. In 1997 her life and the historical research on her diary were the subjects of a docudrama in the PBS series The American Experience. The television program is available from PBS Home Video. Because of the scale of the diary, scholars continue to use digital tools to mine it for information. She was literate, unusual for a working-class woman in her day. Beginning at age 50, she wrote daily with a quill pen and homemade ink, recording babies delivered and illnesses treated as she traveled by horse or canoe around the Kennebec River region of Maine. Her diary entries report the many times she fell from often borrowed and unfamiliar horses, sometimes seriously injuring herself, in her efforts to reach a patient in distress. Based on her records, we know that the infant mortality rate among the population she served was as good as in any place in the United States up until the 1940s. She also functioned as a nurse, physician, mortician, pharmacist, expert witness in court, farm manager, housekeeper and attentive wife. In the act of recording her work, she became a chronicler of the social history of her time. She was the daughter of Elijah Moore and Dorothy Learned. She was the mother of nine: Cyrus, Lucy, Martha, Jonathan, Tryphena, Dorothy, Hannah, Dorothy "Dolly" and Ephraim, Jr. Three of her children died of diphtheria before the period of her diary. She and her husband Ephraim were buried in Augusta in a small family burial ground on her son Jonathan's property. The cemetery was later plowed up to plant crops.

Bio by: SueB

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Burt
  • Added: 24 Nov 2016
  • Find A Grave Memorial 173133854
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Martha Moore Ballard (9 Feb 1735–9 Jun 1812), Find A Grave Memorial no. 173133854, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Body lost or destroyed.