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.


A powerful recreation of period and place through effective costumes and settings, beautifully filmed at King's Landing in New Brunswick, Canada. The frustration felt by Ballard in her own mothering and as she ages, makes the mysterious personal events of her life just as interesting as the stories of illness and birthing two hundred years ago. The words of Ulrich at key points in the otherwise chronological narrative will intrigue those who are interested in historical method and the participatory role of an author within her project.


Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book of the same title by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.

Primary Source

Blueberry Hill Productions, 112 Balley Road, Watertown MA 02172