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American Experience - A Midwife's Tale


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Frequently Bought Together

American Experience - A Midwife's Tale + A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812
Price for both: $27.93

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Editorial Reviews

Based on her personal diary, this program presents a dramatic exploration of the life of Martha Ballard, a woman who lived through the economic boom and bust, and political and social turmoil of the decades following the American Revolution. The video is approximately three minutes longer than the broadcast version.

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Ron Tough, Eric Jaillet, J. Smith-Cameron, Cecil Sharpe, Paula Dawson
  • Directors: Richard P. Rogers
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: June 13, 2006
  • Run Time: 88 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000FGG66G
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,490 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

The scenery is harsh, yet breathtakingly beautiful.
Deborah Adenan
I read the Pulitzer Prize winning book this film was based on when it was published and I loved it.
Debbie I.
The film brings to life the "ordinary" daily chores of 18th century women.
J. Rose

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 27, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
I urge watchers of the video to also read Ulrich's book. It is wonderful--with the help of a personal computer and research in Maine records, she has tracked down the meaning of Martha Ballard's cryptic comments in her midwifery record book.
But there are details in the video that aren't in the book, because the video attempts to recreate the missing part of the record--the daily activities, the physical feel of the people and buildings involved, the historical verity that helps us envision late 18th century life. I am a historic reenactor and am ordering the video to share with my fellows who are working to present to the public a view of the past that is as accurate as we can. Because the video was filmed in the East where 18th century sites and artifacts as well as costumers are more common than in my part of the U.S., we can watch to catch a lot of details other audiences take for granted. (History teachers might also have these motives.)
Another thing that fascinated me when I saw the film on PBS was that the actors were unfamiliar to me. They look like real people, not movie stars. Family dynamics were more believable and souring relationships took on terrific poignancy.
"The Midwife's Tale" is a good antedote to the simplistic visions we get of the early Republic. Domestic and community life is shown, with just tangent references to the outside world of politics and government. Anyone working with a bicentennial project--such as Lewis & Clark celebrations--should spend some time with this video (and the book).
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By J. Rose on February 1, 2009
Format: DVD
I originally had to watch this film for a women's history class. What began as a chore turned to so much more. This film is beautiful. I couldn't keep my eyes off the screen. The film depicts the life of Martha Ballard. Martha is an early American woman who records her daily life in her diary. It spans the years 1785-1812. The film brings to life the "ordinary" daily chores of 18th century women. However, we begin to see that those lives are never ordinary, but are riddled with constant obstacles. Martha is a midwife, as the title suggests. But, she is actually much more than that. She is also a nurse and physician. She is a great woman who cares for her neighbors in a way that would seem taboo today. The film delivers many great moments, and the aura left is nothing less than poetic. I recommend this film to all who cherish beauty at its best. You will not be disappointed.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 14, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
A Midwife's Tale (adapted from Laurel Ulrich's Pulitzer Prize winning book) unfolds like a detective story -- the true tale of two women, two hundred years apart, linked by the diary one of them left behind. The reviewer for the Boston Globe wrote, "A Midwife's Tale is a film of almost tactile pleasure and keen intelligence -- a rare combination." The film, which opened the 10th season of the PBS series The American Experience, has won a national prime-time Emmy for best non-fiction programming, the Silver Spire (San Francisco Film Festival), the top media award of the American Association of State and Local History, the New England Historical Association's Media Award, and the Kodak Vision Award.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By LJS on December 13, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The film itself was intriguing. From a layperson's point of view, the film gave an excellent overview of the book, a glimpse into 18th century life and an historian at work. From an historian's point of view, the film segments showing Ulrich and her meticulous research techniques was impressive. Unfortunately, personal computers with efficient software to make spreadsheets and databases a simple task, were not available in the 80s and early 90s which would have made the meticulous documentation of events from the diary much easier. Ulrich was actually recording events and charting trends by hand on a hardcopy chart which makes her effort and time devoted to the dairy of Martha Ballard even more impressive. The film illustrates to the general public that true history research and writing involves being a detective that interprets evidence to come to educated conclusions about how the past mostly likely played out instead of people who just regurgitate names, dates and events. Reading the book of course will give far more detail into the life of Martha Ballard and late 18th century and early 19th century rural culture and society in New England, but if you want an excellent brief picture of the past then the film performs this task well.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Rosemary Thornton VINE VOICE on June 1, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
When I watched this VHS movie for the first time, I wasn't expecting much. I very nearly turned it off because the first 15 minutes were boring and slow. But once they got past the yada, yada, yada and into this woman's life story, it was completely enthralling.
I watched it a second time with the family, fast forwarding past the boring introduction. The fam also found it very interesting.
The movie is kind of a docu-drama, recreated from the detailed diary of a 1780's midwife. The details about life back then are just beyond description.
One tidbit - premarital sex wasn't the scandal that we'd expect in those times. However, a woman would be asked, in the throes on intense labor, to name the father of the baby. The woman's testimony during these intense moments was considered solid and incontrovertible. If the baby's father refused to marry the woman, THAT was scandalous.
This movie was filled with those kind of details. I can't recommend this VHS-tape enough. One of the best movies I think I've ever seen.
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American Experience - A Midwife's Tale
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