A Midwife’s Tale by Martha Ballard

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When Thomas Jefferson wrote the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, it became one of his greatest legacies. In the first line he wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" (U.S. Constitution, paragraph 2). Jefferson wrote these words to give inspiration to future generations in the hopes that they would be able to change what he either would or could not. The word “men” in the Declaration in the early 1700 and 1800’s meant exactly that, but even then it only was true for some men, not all. Women, children, and other segments of the population such as slaves and Native Americans were clearly not included. Jefferson himself was a slave owner and held the belief that women were inferior to men. Though women played no role in the political environment, they were crucial to the development and economic success of the times. The strength, courage and work ethic of pioneer women like Martha Ballard in “A Midwife’s Tale” (Thatcher, 1990) created the very fabric of the community and wove it together so the community could thrive. The small community of Hallowell, Maine was no different than any other community in any part of the new nation – the goals were the same – to survive and prosper. Life in the frontier was hard, and the settlement near the Kennebec Valley was no different than what the pioneers in the west faced. We hear many stories about the forefathers of our country and the roles they played in the early days but we don’t hear much about the accomplishments of the women behind those men and how they contributed to the success of the communities they settled in. Thanks to Martha Ballard and the diary that she kept for 27 years from 1785-1812, we get a glimpse into... ... middle of paper ... ...only when an attack resulted in an unexplained pregnancy. Women like Martha followed the custom of publicly staying out of men’s affairs to honor their husbands, but privately they were the glue that held their lives together and kept the home running from day-to-day. Though these courageous and tireless women worked hard behind the scenes and did not enjoy the freedom and benefits their male counterparts did, they were an inspiration to future generations who recognized their hard work and accomplishments that paved the way for change in the words, “all men are created to equal” to include all of humanity and not just certain men. Works Cited Jefferson, Thomas. United States. Declaration of Independence. 1774. Web. Thatcher, Laurel. A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812. 1st. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. 1-142 . Print.

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