Tomorrow Night: A Midwife’s Tale, 20 years later

Thursday, October 21, at 7:30 p.m.
Reflections on A Midwife’s Tale by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
The Seventh Annual Robert C. Baron Lecture

The book A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 quickly became a model of social history when it was published in 1990. The book examines the life of one Maine midwife and provides a vivid examination of ordinary life in the early American republic, including the role of women in the household and local market economy, the nature of marriage, sexual relations, family life, aspects of medical practice, and the prevalence of crime and violence. The book won many awards including the Pulitzer Prize for History and the Bancroft Prize. A Midwife’s Tale was also developed into a film of the same name which aired on The American Experience television program.

The book even became the basis for a website called DoHistory ( The site invites you to explore the process of piecing together the lives of ordinary people in the past. It is an experimental, interactive case study based on the research that went into the book and film A Midwife’s Tale. The website aims to help users learn basic skills and techniques for interpreting fragments that survive from any period in history, and to become inspired by Martha Ballard’s story to do original research on other “ordinary” people from the past.

In tomorrow night’s lecture, Professor Ulrich reflects upon some of the scholarly, popular, and political responses to the book and considers its impact on her own more recent work. Further information, including directions, can be found on the Public Programs page on the AAS website.

Please note:

  • This lecture is part of the Antiquarian Society’s annual meeting, and it is anticipated that this will be a well-attended event by both the general public and AAS members alike. Unfortunately, our seating is limited. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., so please plan accordingly.
  • The library will close early at 4:30 to set up for the lecture and will remain closed to the public Friday, October 22, for the Antiquarian Society’s annual meeting.

Laurel Ulrich Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard University, where she teaches in the History Department. She is also the author of Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Early New England, 1650-1750 (1982); The Age of Homespun: Objects and Stories in the Creation of an American Myth (2001); and Well-behaved Women Seldom Make History (2007).

Named in honor of Robert C. Baron, past AAS chairman and president of Fulcrum Publishing, the annual Baron Lecture asks distinguished AAS members who have written seminal works of history to reflect on one book and the impact it has had on scholarship and society in the years since its first appearance.

Published by

Elizabeth Watts Pope

Curator of Books, American Antiquarian Society

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