Martha Ballard's Diary Online


Reviewed By Debra Hamilton

This site was assembled by an organization called DoHistory, and is entitled "Martha Ballard's Diary Online." The site concerns a diary of over 10,000 entries written almost every day from 1785 to 1812 by Martha Ballard, a midwife and mother of nine from Hallowell, Maine. History professor Laurel Ulrich discovered the diary in 1982 and, using it as a source, wrote the Pulitzer Prize winner The Midwife's Tale, later made into a movie.

DoHistory describes its site as an "experimental, inter-active case study based on the diary. It was developed by the Film Study Center at Harvard University.

This is a fascinating site with many links, including educational pages on primary sources, midwifery and herbal medicine, teaching aids, diaries, and revolutionary times, all properly attributed. It also offers interactive features like a virtual walking tour of Martha's neighborhood, along with maps and pictures. The complete, photographed diary is online. Portions that are of specific interest are specially analyzed and transcribed in the format of case studies.

The site has won many prestigious awards and recommendations that are listed at the bottom of it's "About DoHistory" page. It offers contact addresses, feedback addresses, and technical support. I could find no recent update remark, but updates on this sort of site aren't particularly necessary.

Since the site was put together and sponsored by Harvard University, its accuracy can be trusted. It is one of the most intriguing and well-executed sites I've seen about the Revolutionary period and prompts intelligent discussions on the history of the American culture. The fact that a diary of such volume was written by a midwife of that time--and one who was invited to watch male surgeons at work--is truly remarkable.