Laurie Alice Eakes On The Power Of Midwives

Author Laurie Alice Eakes shares the inspiration for her new historical romance Lady in the Mist. Learn how this story was influenced by Eakes' graduate level study of history and discover why the author finds midwives such compelling heroines. Then be sure to check out the excerpt of Lady in the Mist at the end of the post!

Never did I expect that my foray into academia in the late 1990s, frustration over a lack of resources, and a crunching deadline would lead me to selling my first mainstream historical romance novel. Without having to exaggerate or bend the truth, Lady in the Mist was born in the mountains of Virginia. 

While that gorgeous landscape turned red and gold beneath the autumn sun, I sat in my apartment, the university library, or my campus office and pored over books as much as three hundred years old. When my mind was supposed to be creating an academic paper, my subconscious was creating a novel.

The summer before I started graduate school for history, I bought two books—well, I bought more than that, and two stand out. One was a 1930s reprint of a diary of a man from the seventeenth century, and the other was a contemporary copy of a diary of a woman from the eighteenth century. When I had to write a major paper for my research methods course, I thought of the older diary. Yes, I’ll write a paper on the Huguenots, those French Protestants who had to flee the country for their lives. Except the data didn’t come to me. I found too few original sources, too little information that hadn’t been done to death. In other words, I was bored and frustrated.

Because I was also taking a course in the history of medicine and needed a project there, a teaching unit, I thought, with the efficiency of an overworked grad student, why not roll two projects into one, do the same research for both.

I pulled out the other book: A Midwife’s Tale. This was the diary of Martha Ballard in Maine in the late 1700s/early 1800s. Laurel Ulrich, a Harvard professor, had taken the diary and inserted history and other commentaries amidst the entries. It was not only interesting reading; it was a subject rich with original documents.

Oh, the abundance of data!

Old newspapers and older books told me a tale of midwives, of women of power. These women could travel about at any time of day or night without being thought indecent. They earned their own money and some died quite well off. They went to court and testified about paternity when few to no women were ever allowed to testify about anything. In short, they held a position of authority at a time when women’s authority rarely reigned outside the home.

I wanted to write about women. Not just the academic paper I produced, but a novel, several novels, of women who kept secrets and held knowledge, who brought life into the world and often kept it there through their healing wisdom. Midwives, in fact, made the perfect heroines—strong, independent, courageous.

Ten years passed before I was able to set other matters like work and smaller projects aside, and sit down to write a summary of the story and the first three chapters of my first midwife book. Three weeks after my agent sent it out, we learned it was going to committee. Three weeks after that, the committee at Baker/Revell made me an offer. Lady in the Mist was born and I was the midwife with the privilege of delivering this baby and the books to follow.

- Laurie Alice Eakes

If you want to learn more about the historical romance that A Midwife's Tale inspired Eakes to write, you can check out this EXCERPT of Lady in the Mist and then pick up your own copy of the story available in stores now.

Read the excerpt >>