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A Midwife’s Tale

Adapted from the Pulitzer-Prize winning book, this film is the result of an unusual collaboration between the book’s author, Laurel Ulrich, and a team of filmmakers led by Laurie Kahn-Leavitt and Richard P. Rogers.

Unfolding like a detective story, A Midwife’s Tale takes its viewers along the same journey that historian Laurel Ulrich experienced. The film unfolds over a 27-year period in a small, Maine town during the turbulent decades following the American Revolution.

It is based on the diary of midwife Martha Ballard, who started it when she was fifty years old and faithfully kept it for the next 27 years. Using costumes and actual artifacts from the period, the film brings Ballard’s diary to life, touching upon the personal struggles caused by a revolution in medical practice as well as politics. It also addresses the role of women by showing the crucial importance of their work as mothers, wives, healers, housekeepers, and household providers.

“Best Historical Drama of 1997: local filmmakers Richard Rogers and Laurie Kahn-Leavitt’s A Midwifes Tale, an inventive and experimental way to make the American past breath life. Spielberg really should have taken a look before trying to do Amistad.”
–The Boston Phoenix – Gerald Peary
“This is everything one could hope for in a historical film. Laurie Kahn-Leavitt and Richard P. Rogers have put together a very classy production that does exactly what public history should do: it informs the public about how historians craft the stories of history at the same time as it informs us about life in a time and a place quite different from our own.”
–The Public Historian – Alison Duncan Hirsch
“One reason women are virtually absent from official history is that they were working so doggoned hard…This lack of documentation left a void that historians showed little interest in filling until recently, as A Midwife’s Tale demonstrates tonight with understated power.”
–The Washington Post

Screenings and awards include: San Francisco Film Festival (The Silver Spire); Northampton Film Festival (the Kodak Vision Award); the National Emmy for Outstanding Non-Fiction Programming; and the New England Historical Association’s 1997 Media Prize. It was also the opening show for the 10th season of WGBH’s The American Experience

Major funding was provided by The National Endowment for the Humanities, The American Experience, the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

A Midwife’s Tale
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Laurie Kahn, Independent Filmmaker