Teaching Ulrich's A Midwife's Tale Discussion September 1996

>From Paula K. Hinton hinton@miamiu.acs.muohio.edu 03 Sept 1996

A Midwife's Tale is a wonderfully useful book in that it touches on gender issues, medicine, economics, spousal relationships, parenting, etc...There is something there for everyone and it can be used in an American history course, a Women's history course, or elsewhere.

The main problem that students often have with this work is that it gets bogged down in places, and the students' interest decreases. It is in those long sections of Ulrich's comments that this happens. Also, some students do not immediately see why this book is at all important as an historical source. i was quite dismayed, really, at how many students, particularly female ones, who found this book "boring". It might be useful to give a little introduction to it before they go home and read it. Or, you might want to assign little chunks of it instead of the entire book.

Good luck with it!!

>From Rachel Buff rbuff@bgnet.bgsu.edu 04 Sept 1996

Colleagues,

I have used Philip Morgan's anthology, Diversity and Unity in Early North America, which has a selection from Ulrich's book. So far, my students have liked the essay very much, it gives them detailed and rich insight into daily life and women's work in the period, and provides me with a nice jumping off point to talk about the next generation of farm women in New England, many of whom came to work at Lowell and other mills.

>From Kathleen W. Jones kjwj@vt.edu 04 Sept 1996

I can confirm what Paula Hinton wrote re: using A Midwife's Tale in undergraduate classes. I've had students read it in a "History of women's Health" class (because it touches on so many issues--I use it as the first book, as an introduction to the subject and to set up questions for the remainder of the semester) and despite all the interest in midwifery, many of these students found it "boring". Actually, their word was "repetitious". Since I want to continue using it, I, too, am looking for practical suggestions to engage their interest.

>From Patricia Evridge Hill hillp@sjsuvm1.sjsu.edu 05 Sept 1996

I used Ulrich's work in my previous position at a small state college in South Carolina. The course was " A Social History of Women in the US", an upper-division class of about 25 (2/3 women) students who had never studied women or used gender as a category of analysis. I chose the book because I needed something from the early period with a rural focus that would balance (somewhat) the urban emphasis of many of the 19th and 20thC readings I had chosen. Also, the medical history is an area in which I'm doing research and I was delighted to showcase an award-winning book on the subject. Student reactions ranged from real interest to "she says the same thing over and over again." It worked well when I asked them to look for evidence/examples of specific themes, events, issues, etc. and we discussed their findings the next session (for credit!).

It didn't work well at all when simply assigned. They grew quite fond of Martha, however, and were outraged at the treatment she received in her old age--I knew Ulrich had them when they expressed that outrage so vehemently. The men responded to her work ethic and industriousness (that she was such a good provider for her family) and were especially upset about the "unfair" responses of her relatives. Predictably, the women were less surprised that Martha was "underappreciated." They were more interested in the many ways she was able to "produce" and unsettled that she still remained economically insecure and somewhat dependent. I'm not teaching the early US these days but wouldn't hesitate to use the book again, as long as the students were prepped as to what to look for.

>From Ellen Schultz eschultz@lib.wfu.edu 09 Sept 1996

I dimly recall an article (about a year ago) in The Chronicle of Higher Education about a film being made, with Ulrich's participation, and assumed it would see the light of day on PBS sometime, but never have come across any further reference to it.


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