Changing Landscapes

Domestic expectations constantly changed and the market revolution transformed many women’s traditional domestic tasks…. Purchasing cloth and, later, ready-made clothes began to transform women from producers to consumers. One woman from Maine, Martha Ballard, regularly referenced spinning, weaving, and knitting in the diary she kept from 1785 to 1812. —American Yawp, chapter 8, sec. V

Visualizing the Market Revolution

St Louis

St. Louis in 1859

FROM YAWP, CHAP 8:  “In 1816, for instance, $9 could move one ton of goods across the Atlantic Ocean, but only thirty miles across land.”

Slavery and the MarketplaceGradual

Buchanan household

Buchanan manumission

Martha Ballard’s diary, September 11-25, 1787

Changing Roles of Women and Families

The same week in September 1787 that the Framers “delivered” their Constitution to the American people, midwife Martha Ballard was busy caring for and delivering real babies in Hallowell, Maine.  To the right, one can view an image of her diary from that very week in 1787.  Compared to James Madison’s notes of the Constitution Convention, this journal might seem insignificant, but it better represents the lives and concerns of the four million Americans who resided in the country at that time.  Most of them, whether male or female, could probably relate more easily to the terse, businesslike entries in Ballard’s diary than to the fierce but often abstract political debates over sovereignty, republicanism and governance that the Framers were having in Philadelphia.  Students in History 117 should read historian Laurel Ulrich’s account of Martha Ballard’s life and ask themselves if Ulrich has explained the case for remembering this particular midwife.  What do we learn from this account of medical care in the early republic?  How can we explain Martha Ballard’s place in a survey of American history?  And finally, what do we need to know about ordinary lives in order to better understand the context of the past?  A good reference website on the Ballard diary is available from PBS “American Experience,” which did an episode about the midwife a few years ago.