Staying Nimble on Mental Feet

When people find out I’m taking a Women’s American History course, they’re usually confused. You see, I attend a conservative college, and the two fail to fit together in most people’s minds. I beg to differ.

We read our Nancy Woloch textbook critically, and supplementary reading includes the personal letters of Flannery O’Connor and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods. We ask questions like, what effect did the loss of the image of Mary the Mother of God have on the colonies? Did the Great Change for women actually happen back with Luther & the Protestant Reformation? I have a lot of fun classes this semester, but Women of American History (or WOAH) tops them all.

The first supplementary reading was Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812. Martha was a midwife in Maine post-American Revolution. Albeit a bit slow in places, the work is very in-depth; it is wonderful to see the portrayal of a woman that involves such complexity. Highlights include the phrase “disgruntled lobster peddler” (he ends up burning down part of the town) and Martha’s battle against despair via finding meaning in her work through her relationship with God and in the writing of her diary.

In this way, I could relate to Martha Ballard, even though we live in vastly different worlds. I never could articulate why I love writing so much, why letters and this blog and even emails are so important to me: processing my life through these mediums helps me to give them meaning. Like I was saying yesterday, I don’t want to be mentally immobile, so I have the urge to move around. Writing is another way to stay nimble upon mental feet.


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