Tag Archives: Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“I have been at home.”: A Midwife’s Tale and A Request for Your Our Own

25 Mar

A Midwife's Tale
Martha Ballard’s diary entries frequently contained this note when she wasn’t out delivering babies in Hallowell (now Augusta), Maine. She lived and operated in a world both uniquely familiar and starkly foreign to our own, a tight-knit 18th century community in which she played the vital role of midwife. She called on neighbors, attended church, worked in her garden, remembered anniversaries, and raised a family with her husband Ephraim, ten years her senior. Most importantly and notably, she kept a diary over the course of her last 27 years of life, recording her work, the daily goings-on in her community, and her life in over 10,000 entries between 1785 and 1812.

As I write this, I have also been at home. Hoboken is practicing social distancing due to COVID-19, and I can’t go out unless I need groceries or other essentials. If I want to take a walk for some fresh air, I can, but I have to keep six feet apart from other people. I could in theory take my cat for a walk in his stroller to get outside, but I’d worry that people would assume a human child was in there and I’d be branded an irresponsible parent. On the flip side, this means I’ve been getting a lot of reading done, so I finished my reread of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale in a few days. It was to be the historical nonfictional book club’s discussion book for April, but the date is now up in the air for the time being. I hadn’t read it since my undergraduate days at Gettysburg for my historical method class, but I recalled learning a lot about how to work with primary sources from it, so I picked it for the book club – and I am so glad I did.  If you are interested in participating in our virtual book discussion starting on Friday, March 27 check out our calendar page.

In a way, it’s very relevant right now. When I first read the book, it was for purely educational purposes. I was reading it to learn how to utilize primary sources to tell an individual’s story, and I used what I learned within the next year when I took on my undergraduate senior thesis project, which involved extrapolating a story from a soldier’s court-martial. A reread of it now, though, gives the book new meaning. Right now, we’re living through a historical event. Life is going on as normally as possible as we remain in lockdown due to COVID-19, only going out for essentials and working from home if possible. Everyone’s searching for some normalcy, but at the same time we all know we’re living through something historic. I’ve decided to collect articles on COVID-19 and Hoboken for a future vertical file, but I’m also keeping a log of my activities during this period of social distancing because I know someday I’ll want to remember it all – or someone coming after me might want to know what it was like to live through this.

Martha didn’t particularly consider her diary to be historic. She mostly used it to record her daily life, the comings and goings of friends, family, and neighbors, and her midwifery business. She probably didn’t anticipate that it would be today sitting in a historical society, a testament to life in frontier Maine before Maine was even a separate state from Massachusetts. She definitely wouldn’t have imagined that nearly 200 years after her death in 1812 a historian would find her diary there and use it to patch her life together for modern readers. Martha wasn’t the sort of person who intended to be famous, if her no-nonsense diary entries are any indication. She’s now the subject of a Pulitzer Prize-winning piece of historical nonfiction. She’ll be remembered for eternity. She’s achieved immortality, so sought after by rulers of the past, and yet she was an ordinary, everyday woman with an ordinary, everyday – yet crucial – job.

In the spirit of Martha Ballard, I’d like to make a request of you all. If you read this blog post, please consider keeping a journal or a log of your life during this time. When we’ve returned to business as usual here in Hoboken, donate that journal or log or a copy of it to us here at the Hoboken Public Library. We’d love to preserve your story so that future generations can remember what life was like in this difficult time for all of us – and it’ll give you another thing to do during quarantine! We would appreciate your help in recording history – indeed, we’re living through it right now! Send us your activities, your photos, your videos – anything you feel we should save! This may not be the best historical event to live during, but let’s make the most of it and make sure that we’re remembered for what we did to save and protect others during this outbreak!  After 9/11, HPL collected people’s memories and it was published by Wiley in publication September 11: Hoboken Remembers that is now part of our local history collection.

You can send any reflections, images, videos, or other items about your experience during quarantine you want preserved to stephanie.diorio@hoboken.bccls.org, and I’ll make sure they’re safe and protected for the future!

Oh, and one more thing – whilst you’re stuck at home, fill out that Census! You can do it online, and you’ll be helping future historians, archivists, and genealogists too! Your descendants will be able to find you in 72 years when they’re looking!

Stay safe, keep six feet apart, and wash your hands – we’ll get through this!

Written by:
Steph Diorio
Hoboken History Librarian

All About Book Club Books: The Toni Morrison Book Club, The Bromance Book Club, The Book Club Cookbook and the Maximum Security Book Club

11 Mar

I love curling up at night with a good book before I fall asleep, but sometimes the best part of reading isn’t about just reading it yourself, but also about the great conversations they spark and the bonding that occurs over the shared experience.  A variety of fiction and nonfiction books have even used book clubs as a source of inspiration.

The Toni Morrison Book Club
by Juda Bennett
Toni Morrison Book Club
This is one of our newest additions to our collection here at HPL and if you are a fan of Toni Morrison, like me, you’ll be interested in checking it out.  This memoir looks at a group of friends who vary in race, sexual orientation, and country of origin, but all share bonds over Morrison’s work.  Controversies spring up, but the book club also becomes a powerful way to not only look at Morrison’s own works, but also the participant’s lives.

The Bromance Book Club
by Lyssa Kay Adams
Bromance Book Club
Looking for something a bit lighter?  Check out this fun ebook from eBCCLS or eLibraryNJ about a baseball player who turns to a romance book club when his own relationship starts to break apart.  Can he use the book groups latest read as a guide to saving his own marriage?

The Book Club Cookbook: Recipes and Food for Thought from Your Book Club’s Favorite Books and Authors
by Judy Gelman
Book Club Cook Book
If you are hosting a book club, you may be wondering what to serve your guests?  Look no further than The Book Club Cookbook available from BCCLS libraries.  It includes recipe and discussion ideas for 100 popular book club choices so you can sample a good book and a delicious dish!

The Maximum Security Book Club: Reading Literature in A Men’s Prison
by Mikita Brottman
maximum security book club
In this memoir Mikita Brottman, a scholar, recounts her experience of reading literature with prisoners in a maximum-security jail near Baltimore.  Discussing selections like Macbeth and Heart of Darkness not only gives the book club members new insights, but also changes Brottman’s own experiences of the literary works.  The Maximum Security Book Club provides a unique perspective on both literature and the experience of those incarcerated in our nation’s prisons.  It is available from Hoopla as an ebook and digital audiobook.

Book Club
Book Club
Looking for a fun movie to watch with your book club friends?  Check out the 2018, Book Club starring the stellar cast of Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgeon as four friends who decide to put aside their usual book club fare for the steamy Fifty Shades of Grey.

Looking for a book club?  Well you are in luck.  We have four unique genre book clubs at the Hoboken Library and we are reading some terrific books in the upcoming months.

Our Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group picked The Gate to Women’s Country by Sheri S. Tepper for March, which looks at a world where the gender divide has become so great that walls keep them apart; a thought provoking look at a disturbing dystopia.  Come and discuss it with us on Monday, March 23 at 6 PM.

On Tuesday, March 31 at 6:30 PM join us for the first meeting of the Hoboken Public Library’s Romance Book Club! We will be discussing Jennifer Robson’s The Gown.  Read more about the book in our Valentine’s Day blog post.

Our History Book Club will be back on April 6 at 6:30 PM, to read the Pulitzer Prize winning, A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, which looks at the fascinating life of and world of a midwife in 18th Century Maine!  You can borrow the DVD American Experience adaptation or stream it from Kanopy.

On April 14 at 6:30 PM the Mystery Book Club will discuss Eight Perfect Murders by award winning author, Peter Swanson.

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Reference

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