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Ballard, Martha Moore (20 February 1735–19 May 1812), midwife and diarist, was born in Oxford, Massachusetts, the daughter of Elijah Moore and Dorothy Learned, farmers and innkeepers. Nothing is known about her early life and education. Though the Learned and Moore families were moderately prosperous, Martha’s mother signed the only document bearing her name with a mark. Martha’s father and grandfathers were town selectmen and militia officers. Her younger brother, Jonathan Moore, was Oxford’s second college graduate and for a time served as librarian of Harvard College. Her uncle Abijah Moore, a graduate of Yale College, and her brother-in-law, Stephen Barton, were physicians. Presumably Martha learned her craft through working with an older midwife in Oxford....

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Van Blarcom, Carolyn Conant (12 June 1879–20 March 1960), nurse and midwife, was born in Alton, Illinois, the daughter of William Dixon Van Blarcom, a financier, and Fanny Emelie Conant, a linguist and pianist. Despite her father’s abandonment of the family, Carolyn and her five siblings were brought up comfortably by her mother. Rheumatic fever struck her at the age of six, and later she suffered from rheumatoid arthritis. Chronically ill, she was schooled at home until the age of fourteen, when her mother died and she was sent east to live with her grandfather....