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    A Midwife’s Tale Essay (756 words)

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    By breaking up the historical importance of the diary entry on the era and the underlying circumstances that are happening in the town, the reader is not only captivated by facts, but also seduced further into the book. At no time during the novel does the reader feel overwhelmed by the historical facts the author includes. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s method of using Martha’s diary, as a backbone to weave a realistic depiction of the lifestyle during the eighteenth-century was a successful approach to fulfill her thesis. The

    maps and tables are easy to understand, very self-explanatory, as well as incorporated into the theme of the chapter with a molding precision. My over all analysis of this novel is that its unusual format may be difficult for some readers at first while others will be able absorb the content immediately. Furthermore, the use of the table and map broaden the comprehension of the authors’ message. The historical monograph, A Midwife’s Tale, can be related to several works published about women’s role during the eighteenth century.

    The reader can see that Martha was a self-sustaining woman who worked hard at keeping her family needs met. The Journal of Mme Knight, by Theodore Dwight, is an example of another work relating to the issues Martha encounters throughout her life. Sarah Kemble, also known as the Widow Knight or Madam Knight, kept a detailed diary about her travels and the customs of the people she encountered. Sarah Kemble is similar to Martha because she to managed a business, and therefore was self-sustained.

    “The Journal is also considered one of the most authentic chronicles of the eighteenth century colonial life in America. “6 Another work that shows the eighteenth century ideology of women is The Making of a Middle-Class Lady7. It illustrates the daily chores of women and the goods/services they offered during the era. Ulrich, the author, discusses the web of women in the society and their separation from legal affairs. In comparison, both works, A Midwife’s Tale and The Making of a Middle-Class Lady, encompass political, economical, and sexual transformation and the significance it had on women.

    Both works discuss various trades women performed, such as the production of cloth or other jobs of trade, or midwifery. Furthermore, they both expose the difference between the men’s social hierarchy and the women’s social web, and how they interact with each other. As seen in Martha’s Diary, much of the community revolved around the mill, which is an important factor that comes into play as the pre-industrial revolution begins, and women’s work starts to devaluate thus molding a prescription of the house wife, primary care giver to a child, and in debt to their husbands’ fortunes.

    It is difficult to find another source with the same insight as Martha’s diary. Although Sarah’s diary shows her daily life, she is not in the same field as Martha but did fall within the same women’s sphere of this era because she handled her own legal affairs and became a school teacher, whereas Martha only had the education given to her at the beginning and did not involve herself in male affairs.

    All other sources seem to repeat each other in the prescription of women’s duties during the era but lack a true women’s insight into the surrounding events. I am compelled, as a reader, to put Martha’s diary above all other works we have read because they all seem to originate from the pages of her diary but lacking the substance only the women of the era could fulfill, thus leaving a reader with a prescription rather then a description.

    In conclusion, though an unusual format, the author maintains the readers’ attention while addressing various issues that women faced during the eighteenth century, and thus fulfills her thesis in an entertaining approach for the reader. The historical monograph is a unique view of the turmoil during the era while giving insight into the many true duties of women. The author turned history into life, letting the reader walk the footsteps of a midwife and taste the eighteenth century as a whole instead of a selected slice.

    1 A Midwife’s Tale, p. 27. Also see Oxford Vital Records, p. 82 2 A Midwife’s Tale, p. 27. Also see Church Records of the First Church in Augusta, South Parish Congregational Church, Augusta, pp. 100-101. 3 A Midwife’s Tale, p. 34 4 A Midwife’s Tale, p. 34 5 A Midwife’s Tale, p. 33 6 Knight, Sarah Kemble, copyright 1999 Encylopedia Britannica, Inc. 7 Based on the book “The History of Women in America” by Carol Hymowitz and Michaele Weissman.

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