Richard P. Rogers

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A Midwife's Tale

Rogers, Richard; Lee, Kaiulani

Last Updated: Nov-23-1997
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film


This docudrama traces the life and work of Maine midwife, Martha Ballard (Kaiulani Lee), through the account of her own diary from 1785 to 1812. She and her surveyor husband, Ephraim (Ron Tough), moved from Massachusetts to the frontier of Maine during the Revolution; the rapid social changes in their new republic are felt at the domestic level. Ballard cared for many sick people, more than a thousand women in labour, and their infant children. She also becomes a witness for a woman who was raped by a judge.

A local doctor makes a brief appearance as a bungling meddler; other doctors perform an autopsy of her own deceased niece, which the midwife attends; but most often Ballard works alone. Her five surviving children leave home, and she comes to relate the experiences of her patients to those of her own life.

Her husband shares the slow decline into age surrounded by the frictions of proximity with an uncaring son and his months in debtors' prison. The recreation is interspersed with interviews and voice-over with historian and author, Laurel Ulrich. Ulrich describes her discovery and fascination with the Ballard diary, the difficulties in interpretation, and the still unanswered questions.

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