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Celebrating International Women's History Day, 2024

by Laura Gleason on 2024-03-08T16:53:00-07:00 in Gender Studies, History, Humanities, Women's Studies | 0 Comments

Did you know?

The woman who coined the phrase, "Well-behaved women seldom make history" changed the course of scholarship in American History with her ground breaking work from a diary of a midwife, radically altering the way we look at marginalized narratives.

On March 19, 2009, I had the incredible opportunity to attend a lecture given by a Harvard Historian and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich at Idaho State University. Interestingly, I learned from Ulrich that her coined phrase, "Well-behaved women seldom make history" emerged not from a deliberate attempt to inspire feminist movements but as an observation in a scholarly article. It is often misquoted and Ulrich is hardly ever given attribution. However, this pithy phrase quickly became a rallying cry for women asserting their place in history. It seems to be a symbolized microcosm of Ulrich's work in valuing the contributions of women who have been overlooked or underrepresented in historical narratives.

Ulrich's celebrated work, "A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812," uncovers the intricate lives of women in Maine during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This book reconstructs the daily life of Martha Ballard, a midwife, using her extensive diaries. Through Ulrich's interpretation, readers gain insights into the challenges and triumphs faced by women during this period. It is an exploration of the social, medical, and economic landscapes of early America, viewed through the lens of one woman's experience.

The significance of Ulrich's "A Midwife's Tale" to women's history in the U.S. cannot be overstated. It challenges the traditional historical narrative that often sidelines women's experiences and contributions. By focusing on the detailed life of one woman, Ulrich provides a powerful counter-narrative that emphasizes the importance of women's roles in shaping American history. This book not only contributes to our understanding of the past but also encourages a more inclusive approach to historical scholarship. Ulrich's contribution to the field of history by uncovering the stories of women like Martha Ballard ensures that these important voices are continued to be sought out and remembered.

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