After America won its independence from the British it became crucial for the country to form its identity. The formation of this identity began in American towns where people were trying to take advantage of the new opportunities supplied by freedom. In Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's book, A Midwife's Tale, the author analyzes the diary of Martha Ballard, a woman who lived through this evolving time period. Martha Ballard's life could be characterized as a woman during a time of extreme social changes in early American history. The experiences she shares in her diary exemplify the early actions that shaped American culture. .
Martha Ballard's struggle with gender roles is very prominent. Opportunities for women were very limited and were completely overlooked by men. The book discusses that women were extremely hardworking and very important members of society. Women of this time were constantly working and Martha begins to notice that men had much more leisure time. In her diary, Martha Ballard shows the different gender roles when she states, "I had no sleep this night. He lay before the kitchen fire." Martha shows her frustration with the expectations of women compared to men because while she was tirelessly working her husband had time to relax. Her attitude toward gender issues is an early sign of the greater tension that will rise for women's rights in the future. .
Religion greatly helped Martha deal with her frustration toward women's rights. She would constantly turn to God asking for strength to get through life's daily challenges. Martha also enjoyed going to church because it brought the community together and made her feel more important. She enjoyed listening to the sermons because they preached about how Jesus would deal with different situations. The author states that the sermons helped Martha live as a person, "who measured life in "doing for others."" The strong relationship with God helped Martha deal with gender issues because it propelled her to work very hard to demonstrate women's importance in society.